Friday, April 18, 2008

Danny Federici

Danny Federici on stage with Bruce Springsteen in Pittsburgh during the band's recent tour.

Your humble host has been a major fan of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band from way back, so it is with much sadness that I note the passing of Danny Federici, whose association with Springsteen dates back to the late 60's, Thursday at age 58.

Federici and drummer Vini Lopez recruited Springsteen for their band Child in 1969. As various Jersey Shore musicians came and went, Child became Steel Mill, then Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom, and ultimately Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Federici was the one member of Springsteen's outfits who lasted through all the changes. On his website, Springsteen wrote: "Danny and I worked together for 40 years - he was the most wonderfully fluid keyboard player and a pure natural musician. I loved him very much...we grew up together."

Federici seldom sought the limelight; he mostly provided keyboard fills and other sonic coloring for many of Springsteen's best-known songs. A couple of his notable performances were the accordion parts on "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" and the organ lead featured on "Hungry Heart". Federici's glockenspiel playing added a unique touch to a number of Bruce's early tracks. Springsteen often introduced him on stage as "Phantom Dan"; the nickname stemming from a Steel Mill show that the police shut down because the neighbors were complaining about the noise. A minor riot ensued, and Federici slipped into the crowd to evade the cops and avoid possible arrest.

Federici had suffered from melanoma for the past several years. His family has set up the Danny Federici Melanoma Fund in order to spread awareness and provide funds for treatment of the disease. Federici leaves for us this message on the website:

What people take for granted on a daily basis, among so many other things, is their skin. I spent my life, like many others, catching some rays, surfing, hanging out in the sun and it never bothered me until now. Who knew that something as simple as a proper sunscreen or keeping yourself covered up on a sunny day could one day save your life? Our culture looks at a nice tan as a sign of luxury. We spend time in tanning booths when we can't go to the beach or lay by the pool. It's time to think again. Especially if you're fair skined, have freckles, or light eyes. Be aware of the dangers, take precaution, and have yourself checked out regularly by a dermatologist from head to toe. It could absolutely make the difference in your life.