Monday, April 21, 2008

DANNY FEDERICI 1950 - 2008

I was away for the weekend, and upon returning, I read the sad news that E Street Band keyboardist Danny Federici succumbed to melanoma.   

It's easy to get overshadowed in The E Street Band - there are lots of colorful characters and celebrities. But to me, Danny was kind of like his beloved instruments - the accordion and the organ: helping to create a sound, a tone, a vibe. Not necessarily being flashy and calling attention. But when he got the spotlight, he made it count: as I write this, I'm listening to Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band's Live 1975-1985 box set, disc 1: you can kind of hear what Danny added to the sound on "Spirit In The Night," "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)," and the instrumental "Paradise By The 'C'." He had a great solo on "Hungry Heart" and on "You're Missing" and "Ramrod." 

Back in my interviewing days - during the era that Bruce wasn't working with E Street - I often interviewed the guys in the band, and had the privilege of interviewing Danny a few times - at the time, he had just started doing solo accordion based records. At that time, a few of the guys didn't really like discussing the "Bruce thing" - they weren't really sure that they'd ever work together again, and there had been a few one-offs, but nothing to indicate that they'd ever record or tour again. But Danny was cool with talking about it: he indulged me and was more than happy to talk about not just his days with Bruce in the E Street Band, but also in Child (a Zeppelinesque band they were in together) and Steel Mill.  He told me about Steel Mill opening for Grand Funk Railroad, if you can imagine that. He told me about wanting to be in a rock and roll band as a kid, but he only had the very un-rock and roll accordion. So, he laid it on a table, it looked like an organ, and viola, he was a rocker! I wish I still had that tape.  It's worth mentioning that he and bassist Garry Tallent have been with Bruce longer than anyone. The authorized biography, Greetings From E Street: The Story Of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, the book starts not with Bruce, but with Danny. 

When I interviewed Danny, as all the E Streeters always are, he was a bit cagey about any speculation about when he might work with Bruce again. I interviewed him once when he was getting together with Bruce for a benefit - it may have been a Christmas concert type deal. He'd denied knowing anything about it. After the interview, I walked him to the elevator. He gets in, and as the doors were closing, he winks and says, "You know, I may be seeing your friend Bruce tonight..." 

Thanks for indulging my questions, Danny. Thanks for the music. And by the way, if you want to make a donation in his name, you can donate to The Danny Federici Melanoma Fund


1 comment:

Anne said...

Very nice post... thanks. He will be missed for sure.