As with many events of deep significance, Joe Ed Coffman knows exactly where he was and what he was doing when he learned the musician Dan Fogelberg had died. It was Monday, Dec. 17, 2007. Coffman rose early in order to drive to Oklahoma.
“I got up, got a shower, got my cup of coffee, went out and got the newspaper like most people do, then went in and sat down,” says Coffman, a local dog trainer and musician. “On the left-hand side of the paper, it said, ‘Fogelberg Dead at 56.’ I’m telling you, my heart just crashed down to my feet. I thought, you’ve got to be kidding.”
A popular singer-songwriter whose career peaked in the 1970s and ’80s, Fogelberg passed away from advanced prostate cancer. He had first been diagnosed in 2004 only to achieve partial remission after a year of treatment. The cancer returned, and Fogelberg died at the age of 56.
Prostate cancer is the third-leading cause of death among American men, taking around 27,000 men every year. If caught early, however, it’s extremely treatable (see sidebar).
Fogelberg had been Coffman’s favorite artist, but the news that his idol had cancer was shocking news. “I didn’t even know he’d been suffering or battling any kind of cancer,” Coffman says.
That day in 2007, Coffman still made the trip to Oklahoma. He listened to Fogelberg CDs all the way there and back. A singer-songwriter himself, Coffman had first started playing guitar at the age of 16, which coincided with the rise of Fogelberg’s career. “Dan’s first album came out in 1971 and I was hooked right off the bat. I loved the Beatles, loved Elvis, all the rock-and-roll. But when I heard Dan Fogelberg it just really spoke to me.” More than becoming Coffman’s favorite artist, the free-living Fogelberg became something of a muse. “I patterned my lifestyle and the songs I wrote after his style. I just fell in love with his work.”
When Coffman returned home from the Oklahoma…