In October 2017, Bob Seger was forced to postpone a number of live dates on his Runaway Train tour because of a back injury.
Spinal surgery and soul searching ensued. Seger wondered if he was finished as a live performer.
“What I’ve been doing is going back and listening to my favorite groups, my favorite singers,” Seger told Louder Sound magazine in February while he was still convalescing. “…I’m going to keep drilling myself with music that I like and analyzing it — Why do I like this? Why do I like that? — and get ready for writing. That’ll be the first thing I’ll do, a little bit of writing, and then hopefully I’ll have to start rehearsing for the shows. I really hope I’m not done.”
As it turned out, Seger was not done. But he did decide to hang up his mic on his own terms. When he had fully recovered, he announced his farewell tour. He will visit Memorial Coliseum on Jan. 15.
After May, new music will continue to be produced by Seger, but no new tours will be mounted.
Even if you are only a casual fan of Seger’s music, you won’t want to miss this last chance to hear live one of the fundamental figures of 20th century rock music.
Seger’s hits — “Against The Wind,” “Like a Rock,” “Shame on the Moon,” “Turn the Page,” “Night Moves” — are crucial components on the essential soundtrack of the 1970s and ’80s.
Seger, 73, has been on the road for 56 years. He had no idea when he was a young man that he’d still be pounding the pavement in his seventies.
“God, no,” he told Rolling Stone. “I thought I’d be done by 30. My original plan was to do it for five years between the age of 25 and 30 and then buy a motorcycle and drive across Europe, and then get a real job. It didn’t work out that way. The more you do it, I guess, the more you love it.”
Looking back and forward
Seger may be tiring of the road, but he is as enthusiastic as ever about creating new music.
He released his 18th studio album, I Knew You When, in November. The album contains two songs about The Eagles’ Glenn Frey, whose death in 2015 shook Seger up.
“He was my oldest friend in music,” Seger said. “I met him in 1966, and we recorded ‘Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man’ that year. We were just a couple of knuckleheads starting out – he was from Royal Oak [Michigan], and I was from Detroit.
“He was such a positive influence in my life. We’d always call each other for advice. I pushed him to do that Eagles reunion [in 1994]. He was the only one that didn’t want to do it for years. I said to him, ‘I think you’d have fun.’”
In fact, Seger initially envisioned I Knew You When as a Glenn Fry tribute album. Even though other sorts of songs eventually ended up on the album, Seger said he still sees it as a tribute album.
“About three months after he passed, I did his memorial in L.A.,” he said. “That had about seven thousand people. Everyone was there — even [original Eagles bassist] Randy Meisner and J.D. [Souther] and Bernie Taupin. I saw everybody. About a month before that, I got the idea of listening to some of my old songs, and I found ‘I Knew You When’ and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this even sounds faintly like an Eagles song. This is perfect,’ and I said: ‘That’d be a great title for a Glenn tribute record.’
“So when I saw [Frey’s widow] Cindy in L.A., I asked her, ‘Would you mind if I did that? It’s your legacy. I don’t want to mess it up.’ She said: ‘No, I’m sure it’ll be in good hands with you,’” Seger recalled. “I really took my time on it. It’s a little bit political, but most of it’s about Glenn.”
to those who’ve gone on
Seger admits that it’s been hard to see so many of his peers pass away recently.
“Oh my God… Y’know, Leonard [Cohen] passed and Lou [Reed] passed in ’13, and that was a heavy hit, too,” he said. “And then of course [Little Feat drummer] Richie Hayward, who’s playing drums on four songs on the album. And then Gregg [Allman] died and [Tom] Petty died. I probably would have done some nod to all of them [on the album] if I’d had time, but I … just didn’t have the time, and that was just to get it out when it came out.”
Seger decided to revisit a Reed tune called “Busload of Faith” on the album, both in homage and because it remains a timely tune.
“…I just love the imagery of ‘Busload of Faith,’” he said. “I see it as a bunch of working people, maybe they can’t afford a car and it’s cheaper to take a bus. They’re going to work and singing, ‘These days, you need a busload of faith to get by.’ Maybe because of the economic division in our country and stagnant wages and so on and so forth, it felt right to do it now.”