Dan FogelbergIt’s odd to say that a singer/songwriter with four Top 10 singles and four Top 10 albums each, along with a stack of gold and platinum records, slipped through the cracks, but in an odd way Dan Fogelberg -- who died on December 16 after a three-year struggle with prostate cancer -- was often taken for granted. His biggest hit was “Longer,” a love song so sweet it naturally fit upon soft-rock radio in 1980, but its very success, along with several smooth successors in the early ‘80s, camouflaged Fogelberg’s genuine folky roots, the years he spent honing his craft, both as a studio musician and as a writer, as his first album Home Free appeared in 1972, nearly a decade before his greatest popularity. Those hits pegged him among some singer/songwriter afficianados as too soft, too mainstream, yet his music was so song-oriented -- his albums sounding so clean, pure, and tasteful -- that he never received the kind of revival or re-evaluation that some of his peers did, the way that Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, and Hall & Oates were sampled and embraced by the Yacht Rock contingent. Fogelberg was too well-mannered and earnest for that, perhaps too much the product of his Midwestern background to either have irony in his music or irony imposed on him after the fact. And even if he didn’t experience a revival, he never shed fans. Even as each new album sold fewer and fewer as the ‘80s turned into the ‘90s, he could still sell concert tickets, his hits stayed on the radio, and his older albums moved steadily. He may not have been selling like he used to, but that was a reflection of the times more than the music. These latter-day records were often interesting, as they found Fogelberg reconnecting with his bluegrass and folk roots, dabbling with worldbeat and writing about the environment. All of this was delivered with the gentle, easy touch that was his signature. It may have been a signature that was never, ever hip but that doesn’t quite mean that he was square. He was too much a child of the ‘60s to be square, too much a true believer in the music -- specifically folk-rock -- and what it meant and could be. But instead of adhering closely to the sounds of the era, he cleaned it up and mellowed out, providing a touchstone for many listeners who shared a similar sensibility, whether he was singing about dying fathers, a changing world, or eternal love. Now that Dan Fogelberg is gone, all those fans can do is thank him for his kindness and his music, which is his living legacy.