Dan Fogelberg’s Having a Blue Christmas: “Same Old Lang Syne” (1980)

There’s a restaurant my family frequents that I have affectionately dubbed the “Yacht Rock Restaurant,” because they seem to always play the reassuring soft rock music of the 70’s and 80’s that I associate with the comfort of being a little kid (one can only imagine my delight at the soundtrack from Anchorman 2 ;) The holiday season is a particularly warm and nostalgic time to dine at this eatery because of these very song choices. I’m instantly brought back to the holidays when VH1 would play nonstop videos on Christmas Eve of Hall and Oates dancing to “Jingle Bell Rock,” a bunch of celebrities asking “Do They Know It’s Christmas” (never quite understood a few of those lyrics until I looked them up), and of course Bing Crosby dueting with Ziggy Stardust in matching cardigans. However, there’s one song that always brings about emotion in me, that ironically, I never knew the name of until fairly recently, and doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with Christmas.

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I had recognized Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne” being played every year on familiar radio stations, but hadn’t listened to the lyrics particularly closely or known its backstory. I eventually realized that the gentle voice of the song was the same one that belonged to 70’s hits such as “Longer” and “Leader of the Band’ but hadn’t quite made the connection to its status as a sentimental favorite holiday tune. The narrative of a special meeting on a Christmas Eve, for some reason evokes a very real sense of nostalgic ache. I don’t know of an official music video or performance that accompanies the song, but it almost seems superfluous to have one. The lyrics and melody effectively paint a picture on their own.

My discovery that the song is actually autobiographical didn’t surprise me at all. It seems too genuine and heartfelt to be fiction. As the story goes, a last-minute errand to pick up eggnog during the holiday season of 1975, resulted in a surprise encounter with a former love. Five years later as said friend first heard Fogelberg’s single on the airwaves, she instantly recalled their meeting in hometown Peoria as the song’s inspiration.

Fogelberg revealed to American Songwriter that his 1981 release “The Innocent Age,” on which Same Old Lang Syne appears, is a personal favorite of his catalog of work. Considering he cites Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” as an important influence in his songwriting, the pensive element to his work makes a great deal of sense. Although to fans of his work, this emotional component need not be explained – simply felt and enjoyed.

Needless to say, “Same Old Lang Syne” has become a favorite of mine…..the gentle stir it evokes is wistful and longing in a familiar, comfortable way. It seems almost improper while listening to a song as emotive as it, to try and dissect its form or lyrical organization. However, I cannot help but notice the symbolism of the last line as pointed out recently by my Dad. “The snow turned into rain” must mean *tears.* I can’t think of a more appropriate note to end on, Mr. Fogelberg…….;)

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3 thoughts on “Dan Fogelberg’s Having a Blue Christmas: “Same Old Lang Syne” (1980)

  1. CA Darlaw says:

    Always loved this song – even before I knew what it was about,lol. It’s this wonderful example of everything I love about the 70’s singer-songwriter – made me into a Dan Fogelberg fan as well :)

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