He is reunited with an old flame at a grocery store on a snowy Christmas Eve. She doesn’t recognize him at first glance and when the two reach to embrace, she drops her purse causing them to laugh until they cry. They eventually decide to have a drink somewhere but are unable to find any open bar. Settling on a six-pack purchased at a liquor store, they proceed to drink it in her car while they talk.
Christmas eve. The grocery store. Him. Her. Old Lang Syne.
Familiar with this story? This is an excerpt from the story of Dan Fogelberg‘s 1980 single, “Same Old Lang Syne.”
“Same Old Lang Syne”: Meeting an old romance
An autobiographical narrative ballad by Dan Fogelberg, “Same Old Lang Syne” tells the story of two long-ago romantic interests meeting by chance in a grocery store on Christmas Eve.
Now frequently played during the holiday season and alongside traditional Christmas songs, the song peaked at no. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.
Continuing the narration of the story earlier mentioned…
The pair toast innocence of the past as well as the present. The subsequent verse describes the two pushing through their initial awkwardness and discussing their current lives. The lover went on to marry an architect and is seemingly content with her life, though she married for security instead of love. The narrator then says that as a musician he loves performing but hates touring.
After a third toast, the conversation runs its course. They exchange their goodbyes and the woman kisses him before he gets out of the car. As she drives away, the narrator contemplates the good times they’d had long ago.
The song’s creation
Based on the melody of the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky, the song ends with a soprano saxophone solo by Michael Brecker based on the melody from the original “Auld Lang Syne”.
As Fogelberg said on his official website, the song was autobiographical. He was visiting family back home in Peoria, Illinois in the mid-1970s when he ran into an old girlfriend at a convenience store.
After Fogelberg’s death from prostate cancer in 2007, the woman in the song, Jill Anderson Greulich, came forward with her story. In an interview, Greulich told of how she and Fogelberg dated in high school. The pair knew each other in Peoria, Illinois as part of the Woodruff High School class of 1969.
Following college, Greulich married and moved to Chicago, while Fogelberg moved to Colorado to pursue a music career. While back in Peoria visiting their respective families for Christmas in 1975, Fogelberg and Greulich ran into each other on Christmas Eve at a convenience store.
Five years later, after the song was released, Greulich heard the song on the radio for the first time while driving to work, but kept quiet about it, as Fogelberg also refused to disclose her identity. She stated that her reason for remaining quiet about her involvement in the song’s narrative was that coming forward would disrupt Fogelberg’s marriage.
The song’s reception
“Same Old Lang Syne” is frequently played on radio stations during the American holiday season. The song’s opening lyrics reveal that the narrative takes place on a snowy Christmas Eve and they end with a second acknowledgment of snow. Since the song’s release, these references and the musical quote of “Auld Lang Syne”, a song traditionally sung on New Year’s Eve, have increased the song’s popularity during the month of December. The song debuted on the Hot 100’s top 40, at no. 37, on 27 December 1980, between Christmas and New Years Eve.