Happy Holidays! Since it’s the first year of my blog, and since it’s the last year for my Annual Holiday Show on my little 20-year-old 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), I wanted to present to you THE 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS, or, 31 of my favorite 80s holiday musical treats.
The song for Day 23 of THE 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS is “Same Old Lang Syne” by Dan Fogelberg, and was released in December 1980, several months in advance of his seventh studio album, a double album titled, THE INNOCENT AGE.
Debuting at No. 75 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 twelve days before Xmas, “Same Old Lang Syne” reached the Top 40 a couple days after Xmas. Though the story song takes place on Xmas Eve, Dan Fogelberg never actually intended to be a holiday song.
As Dan Fogelberg said on his website in 2003, the song was autobiographical. He was visiting family back in his home of Peoria, Illinois in the mid-1970s, and he ran into an old girlfriend of his in a convenience store.
“Same Old Lang Syne” would go on to spend two weeks at its peak position of No. 9 on the Hot 100 in late February 1981 and stuck around on the chart until early April 1981.
Dan Fogelberg had made Maine his home for decades and was living in Deer Isle, Maine when he sadly passed away from prostate cancer this week (on December 16) in 2007, at the age of 56. The saxophone solo at the end of “Same Old Lang Syne” was performed by Jazz great Michael Brecker, who also passed away in 2007.
A week after Dan passed away, the old girlfriend in the song, Jill Anderson Greulich, told her story in the PEORIA JOURNAL STAR (the daily newspaper of Peoria, Illinois). She confirmed the story about meeting Dan in the convenience store on Xmas Eve, drinking the six-pack and talking in her car for two hours. When she heard the song on the radio, she kept it to herself (and knew that Dan would never disclose her identity). She also didn’t want a reveal to cause any issues with his marriage.
In the 35 years since the release of “Same Old Lang Syne,” it has remained not only as a favorite for radio stations during the holiday season, but as a personal favorite, especially this time of year.
Just a few days ago, Sam Anderson of the NEW YORK TIMES wrote a lovely piece about “Same Old Lang Syne” (a “letter of recommendation,” as he worded it), and of the song, he said, “Only one holiday song is worth a precious fraction of your rapidly dwindling time on earth: Dan Fogelberg’s 1980 ballad ‘Same Old Lang Syne,’ a light-rock radio classic that deconstructs all the usual eggnog conventions and reassembles them into a proper work of art – something like a Raymond Carver story crossed with ‘Escape (The Piña Colada Song)’ [by Rupert Holmes] crossed with T.S. Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets.’ Like the holiday season itself, Fogelberg’s song is simultaneously hilarious, sad, beautiful, corny and transcendent.”
And, much like the weather in “Same Old Lang Syne,” today’s snow here in Central Maine will turn into tomorrow’s rain, and I’ll think of Dan, and his unintentional holiday gem…