Danny who? There might be one or two visitors to my site who might know who he is, but I think most won’t. I’ve never talked about him before anywhere, and I’ve never really counted him as an influence in any way. Danny Federici died last April 17, 2008, and when I heard about it, it saddened me greatly, more than I expected it would.
Danny was a long time member of Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band who played the keyboards, organs, and occasionally, the accordion. He was diagnosed with melanoma three years ago and it finally claimed him more than a week ago.
(Video from BruceSpringsteen.net)
Favorites come and go and very often I would get tired of listening to an artist and move on to the next. The one artist, as in the only one artist I could never get tired of listening to was Bruce Springsteen. I discovered his music through “Dancing in the Dark” in 1984 during the summer break before the start of my freshman year in college. I was instantly hooked. I felt a connection to the music that I didn’t feel with any other. It just felt right. It felt good and it felt perfect. I eventually bought the album and it took my life completely over. Unbelievably, all the songs were terrific. It was quite a revelation. In an industry that bred bands with one hit single and a crap album, here was a guy that was writing nothing but good songs on the entire album. Later, I would hear that he wrote 80 songs for just that album, and he selected only the best to be included.
I began to buy his earlier albums and I bought every album he put out ever since. I eventually came to know every member of his E-Street Band and the role that each of them played. I eventually came to know Max Weinberg through his powerful drumming, Clarence Clemons for his heart breaking saxophone playing, Roy Bittan for his delicate piano playing, Garry Talent for his subtle and steady bass playing, Nils Lofgren for his deft guitar playing, Steve Van Zandt for his antics, get-up and his steady guitar playing, Patti Scialfa for her unusual vocals, Suzie Tyrell for her lilting violins… and then there was Danny. “Phantom Dan” as Bruce lovingly refers to him. Now you see him now you don’t. Quiet and unassuming and quite often would just disappear into the background as if he wasn’t there.
But the music he made was anything but invisible. There are moments where his organ or his keyboards would just come in at the right moment, with the right notes, in the right place in the song, and it’s enough to reduce me to tears. His music is an integral part of the sound of the E-Street Band, and integral to the music I grew up with through college, through much of my working life.
When I heard that Danny had died, I never expected to be hit so hard. The music he had helped create accompanied me through the ups and downs of my life like it was really and truly a part of me. I knew that Danny was sick, but it was still sad nevertheless. Bruce Springsteen wrote a really beautiful tribute for Danny during his funeral. If you feel like it, you can read it here: