Peoria, Illinois

Same Old Lang Syne by Dan Fogelberg

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Met my old lover in the grocery store
The snow was falling Christmas Eve
I stole behind her in the frozen foods
And I touched her on the sleeve Read full Lyrics
On Christmas Eve, 1975, Dan Fogelberg made his way through his East Bluff neighborhood, down Frye Avenue to the convenience store where Frye intersects with Prospect Road. It is this convenience store that Fogelberg references in his song "Same Old Lang Syne," about a chance encounter with his love. Thirty-three years later, Third District Councilman Bob Manning honored the late singer/songwriter with his very own street designation. A significant crowd, including friends, family, musicians, and fans, gathered near the convenience store for the unveiling of Fogelberg Parkway.

Dan Fogelberg (1951-2007) was a multi-instrumentalist, drawing inspiration from eclectic sources including bluegrass, pop, rock, and jazz. Fogelberg grew up in Peoria, Illinois, the largest city on the Illinois River. Peoria is, in fact, one of the oldest settlements in the region, originally settled in 1680, but only officially named Peoria in 1825 – the name derived from a Native American word meaning "fat lake." Today Peoria has a population over 100,000 and is home to Caterpillar Inc. headquarters, one of the 30 companies composing the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The city is considered representative of the average American city because of its demographics and Midwestern sensibilities. An adage is attached to the city: "Will it play in Peoria?" This, coming from the Vaudevillian circuit: if a play did well in Peoria, it would do well anywhere.

Peoria at Christmastime, 1975, when the events of Dan Fogelberg's "Same Old Lang Syne" took place. That's a 1974 Gremlin and a 1973 Volkswagen Beetle.  <br>Photo: <a href="" target="_blank">Roger W</a>, via Flickr, CC 2.0Peoria at Christmastime, 1975, when the events of Dan Fogelberg's "Same Old Lang Syne" took place. That's a 1974 Gremlin and a 1973 Volkswagen Beetle.
Photo: Roger W, via Flickr, CC 2.0
Dan Fogelberg grew up in Peoria, taught himself to play Hawaiian slide guitar and piano, and joined a Beatles cover band when he was 14. He went on to study theater arts and painting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign when he joined a local campus rock band. Fogelberg later moved to Nashville to hone his skills where he recorded his first album with Norbert Putnam. It wasn't until after performing with Van Morrison and releasing his second album that Fogelberg began to garner the attention of fans.

In 1979 Fogelberg released the album Phoenix, which included the track "Longer," which peaked at #2 on the hit chart of 1980 and became a wedding standard. In 1981, Fogelberg released The Innocent Age, a double-album song cycle featuring the songs that would secure his place in the halls of musical fame for all posterity: "Leader of the Band," "Hard to Say," "Run for Roses," and "Same Old Lang Syne." All four of these singles reached the Top 10 Billboard charts for pop and adult contemporary.

Drawing inspiration from Thomas Wolfe's novel Of Time and the River, this album captures the inherent themes of Wolfe's work – the search for meaning, the search for self, and the inexorable passing of time. Both "Leader of the Band" and "Same Old Lang Syne" were semi-autobiographical songs, the first about Fogelberg's father who led a band at a local school and the second about a trip home to Peoria where Fogelberg ran into an old girlfriend at a convenience store. It was only after Fogelberg's death in 2007 that Jill (Anderson) Greulich, his on again/off again girlfriend of several years from Woodruff High School, came forward and admitted to being the girl in the song. In a 2007 article by Phil Luciano for the Peoria Journal Star, Jill talks about still having some of the poetry Fogelberg wrote for her "in a drawer at home." She kept quiet all those years about her part as the inspiration of the song because she didn't want it to "overshadow Dan. It wasn't about me. It was about Dan. It was Dan's song."

"Same Old Lang Syne" ends with a haunting soprano sax melody taken from the traditional "Auld Lang Syne" Christmas classic, making this song about Peoria a holiday favorite still played across the nation on radio stations.

Suzanne van Rooyen
October 6, 2014

Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. Although she has a Master's degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. Her published novels include Dragon's Teeth, Obscura Burning, and The Other Me.
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Comments: 1

  • Peter Gomez from Sanford CoIt sounds very nice and I miss this song. Took me a long time to find it. You remind me of some old girlfriends.
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