Trying To Get To You

Friday, April 18, 2008

Danny Federici: 1950-2008

Danny Federici, the wonderful E Street Band organist, accordionist and keyboard player who played with Bruce Springsteen for almost 40 years, died yesterday after a battle with melanoma. His last full show with the band was in November but there had been word that he was making a recovery (he made a surprise appearance with Bruce last month in Indianapolis), so this very sad news is also somewhat stunning.

Federici began playing with Springsteen in 1969, when Bruce was still a scuffling musician on the Jersey shore, in bands such as Child and Steel Mill. And when Springsteen got his record deal with Columbia in 1972, Federici was immediately called upon to be the organist for what would become the E Street Band, being one of only three musicians to be with the E Street Band throughout its entirety (Clarence Clemons and Garry Tallent are the two others).

Federici was not the most talented technical musician in the E Street Band (that honor would go to Roy Bittan), but as Springsteen acknowledged to Federici in his Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction speech, "Your organ and accordion playing brought the boardwalks of Central and South Jersey alive in my music." Danny's playing was simple, direct and warm. On songs like "Kitty's Back" and "4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)," Federici brought an innocence to his playing that felt soulful. And his glockenspiel playing provided one of the essential signature pieces of the Springsteen sound in countless Springsteen classics.

Springsteen's music and persona has always emphasized community, and the E Street Band have always been the manifestation of that community. We look upon the band not as a backup for Bruce, but as part of the family. Danny had an ethereal presence about him, but that presence always solidified when he played. I met him only once, backstage at a big party Sony threw for Bruce and the band after their first Jersey show in '99. I was introduced to him and we shook hands and then later in the evening, while the rest of the band was milling around chatting, I saw him at a table by himself, set apart from the crowd, looking very much in his own world. There was a part of me that wanted to sit down and talk with him, but the look on his face had me feel that I would have been intruding. I have never quite forgotten the expression on his face that night. It was an existentially lonely look.

The songs below provide a range of the immense contribution he made to Bruce Springsteen's music over the years. His sound was one of warmth, friendship and camaraderie - and its those things that have always been at the core of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's music. He will be sorely missed. Rest in peace, Phantom Dan.

Download: "You Mean So Much To Me" 5/31/73, Richmond, VA
Download: "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" 4/9/74, Boston, MA
Download: "Prove It All Night" 7/7/78, Los Angeles, CA
Download: "Kitty's Back" 9/19/78, Passaic, NJ
Download: "The Fever" 12/15/78, San Francisco, CA
Download: "Hungry Heart" 8/20/81, Los Angeles, CA
Download: "Racing In The Street" 10/26/84, Los Angeles, CA
Download: "Darlington County" 10/13/86, Mountain View, CA
Download: "My City Of Ruins" 10/27/02, London, England


23/7 said...

well done, thanks.

RIP Danny.

Anonymous said...

Danny we will miss you! Independance Day

Jon Ford said...

As the first to join E-Street, you played a critical part in bringing Bruce Springsteen into our lives. As the first to leave E-Street, you are creating the first gaping whole in the E-Street sound. We miss you dearly, but we'll gain comfort in knowing you've already set up bookings in the big hall. Thanks Ben for the great post.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful tribute. Thanks,
Tears are flowing around the world today, not only on E St.

Bar L. said...

I cried when I heard.

This is a wonderful tribute and I like your site alot, will be back to visit!

Anonymous said...

The music you helped create has been a major part of the soundtrack of mylife.

Rest In Peace, Danny.

Tony D.

Anonymous said...

We have lost such a vital member. You gave so much soul to the East Street band; something that is so lacking in many bands today.

God Bless you and keep you in His Love.


Unknown said...

peace yall..check it out:

live mix by DJ Dmadness (Oakland, CA)
recorded at SF soul party Devil’s Pie
all vinyl selections
for download link

1 i will be your friend
2 smooth operator
3 slave song
4 hang on to your love
5 never as good as the first time
6 pearls (somalia mix)
7 paradise
8 turn my back on you
9 kiss of life
10 clean heart
11 cherry pie
12 war of the hearts
13 keep looking
14 the sweetest taboo
15 tar baby
16 love is stronger than pride (mad professor remix)
17 king of sorrow (guru remix)
18 cherish the day (ronin remix)
19 is it a crime
20 no ordinary love
21 by your side (the neptunes remix)
22 your love is king

Anonymous said...

love the clips. He was a talented man. I hope his family, friends and fans are comforted

sexy said...