Dan Fogelberg’s Kentucky Derby Song

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Dan Fogelberg

Jessie at Derby 2013.jpgOf course everyone knows that “My Old Kentucky Home” is the official song of the Kentucky Derby; as well as being the official state song of the Commonwealth.  Stephen Foster’s 1853 tribute to the antebellum slave plantation at Federal Hill in Bardstown, Kentucky, is so important here in the Bluegrass State that students can’t get their GED certificates until they memorize the words.  (Foster’s verse, “It’s Summer, the darkies are gay…,” has been officially changed to “It’s Summer, the people are gay…”  We expect the term “gay” will be the next term to be bowdlerized in the name of historical revisionism and political correctness by our General Assembly.)

But another, gentler, song is fast becoming as popular with Kentuckians as Stephen Foster’s anachronistic paen to old Uncle Tom.  Daniel Fogelberg released his double album, The Innocent Age, in the Fall of 1981, and it became an unprecedented success.  It generating four Top 20—including "Same Old Lang Syne", "Run For The Roses", written for the Kentucky Derby, "Hard To Say", and the touching tribute to his father, "Leader Of The Band".  "I still think most highly of that album," Fogelberg said. "Making it was certainly one of the high water marks of my life."kentucky-derby generic.jpg"Run for the Roses" was released as a single the following year, it placed to number 18 on the Billboard Hot 100.  It has since been used as an unofficial theme for the Kentucky Derby. The song alludes to "the chance of a lifetime, in a lifetime of chance" at once describing the experience of horse racing, and life itself.

The song contains one "goof".  Its opening lines describe the foal as "Born in the valleys/And raised in the trees/Of western Kentucky". The Thoroughbred breeding industry has no real presence in that part of the state; Kentucky's Thoroughbred industry is centered on Lexington, located in the Bluegrass region and most commonly thought of as being in Central Kentucky. Nevertheless, “Run for the Roses” retains a solid place in the hearts of all faithful Kentucky Derby fans.  Fogelberg died on December 16, 2007, and left us all with this valuable gift:

Run For The Roses

run for roses.jpgBorn in the valley and raised in the trees

Of Western Kentucky on wobbly knees

With mama beside you to help you along

You'll soon be a-growing up strong

All the long, lazy mornings in pastures of green

The sun on your withers, the wind in your mane

Could never prepare you for what lies ahead

The run for the roses so red

(Chorus)

And it's run for the roses as fast as you can

Your fate is delivered, your moment's at hand

It's the chance of a lifetime in a lifetime of chance

And it's high time you joined in the dance

It's high time you joined in the dance

 

From sire to sire, it's born in the blood

The fire of a mare and the strength of a stud

It's breeding and it's training and it's something unknown

That drives you and carries you home

 

 Photo credits:  Jessica Logsdon Dozier, KBCO

About Thomas McAdam
At various times I have been a student, a soldier, a college Political Science teacher, a political campaign treasurer, and legal adviser to Louisville's Police Department and Board of Aldermen. I now practice law and share my political opinions with anyone who will listen.
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