The Secret Life of Dan Wilson

Closing time. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

These are the closing lyrics to one of the biggest hits of the 90s. It still gets plenty of play at the end of the night in bars and in high school dances (I’m assuming. High school was a while ago, but things couldn’t have changed that much, right?) or at the end of the day at the office. It’s overplayed, it’s cliche, but it’s familiar, and that’s why it continued to get played. That song came out in 1998. I was born in 1990. With each passing day, it becomes harder and harder to remember a world before “Closing Time.” Semisonic, the Minneapolis based alternative rock band that recorded “Closing Time” is apparently still together, despite not releasing a studio album since 2001, but has faded into obscurity as they could never replicate the success of that one hit. Semisonic’s front man, however, is a different story.

The other day, I happened to hear on the radio that Dan Wilson, Semisonic’s lead singer, lead guitarist, and songwriter, is one of the most successful songwriters and producers in the business. For all I know, this might already be common knowledge. I don’t follow music as much as I would like to. It’s not as easy as it was when I was in high school. In Massachusetts, we used to have WBCN and WFNX on the FM dial. They were two great rock stations that were often the first stations in the country playing new artists that would eventually make it big. With the Internet, we have access to pretty much any and every song that has ever been recorded, but with that much out there, it becomes overwhelming and I usually end up listening to the same stuff I listened to in high school and the new material those artists have released since then. Now, the pop and country stations have taken over, and WBCN’s old studio is occupied by 98.5 The Sports Hub, a sports talk station with the feel of a rock station. It was on The Sports Hub where Toucher and Rich, two holdovers from the WBCN Era, mentioned in passing that “the guy who sings ‘Closing Time'” is really successful as a behind-the-scenes guy these days. Naturally, I felt the need to check Wikipedia, and discovered they were right.

Dan Wilson produced Adele’s album 21, and co-wrote and played piano for the song “Someone Like You.” That song was #1 for five weeks, and has replaced Celine Dion’s “All By Myself” as the song people blast at full volume when they’re sad. He has also collaborated with Taylor Swift, Ben Folds, Rivers Cuomo (front man for Weezer), Carole King, Dixie Chicks, Jason Mraz, LeAnn Rimes, Keith Urban, and KT Tunstall, among many others. Who knew?

Dan Wilson’s music career reminds me of Trent Dilfer’s football career, if Dilfer wasn’t on ESPN all the time. Dilfer was a solid game managing quarterback, but by no means a superstar. He was the starter for the defensively loaded Baltimore Ravens team that won Super Bowl XXXV (the same year as the most recent Semisonic studio album), but never repeated that level of success. He spent the rest of his playing career as a “mentor backup” helping out promising young QBs who were the future of their team. When he’s not on TV, he’s still a quarterback guru who works with some of the best young players in the country. Dan Wilson may not have been able to sustain success as the headlining act, but he’s made a lot of money helping others get there.

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