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Sunday, April 20, 2008

More thoughts on Phantom Dan Federici...

It's funny really how someones death can evoke emotions that you don't expect.
I never met Danny Federici. Never came close to him, never sat on the same plane or passed him in an airport. But the guy was a part of my life for that last 30 or so years in a strange way. It isn't like I bought Springsteen albums or broke the piggy bank to buy a ticket from a scalper so I could hear Danny's organ work or see him dazzle on the accordion. But without him, something would have been horribly wrong with the E-Street band. In a hockey analogy, he was more like the Zamboni than he was a player. Not that he didn't play...and do it well. But his being there lent an environment to the overall sound that was unmistakable and if it wasn't there the entire band would have suffered.
Name me ten great rock and roll organ solos. Heck name me five. I'll spot you that drug fueled mess on "Light my Fire". That's famous only because it was The Doors and it was probably the first of it's kind. But I detest the Doors so no points for that one. Okay Steppenwolf has one on "Born to be Wild" anyone else??? Anyone? Hungry Hearts was probably the first organ solo in a good 6 0r 7 years, (there's on on a Boston tune but I forget the name) and if I'm not mistaken it's the last on of note. Danny's work on Hungry Heart was remarkable. And to think Bruce had it in mind to give that song to The Ramones. Dan's lingering, ghostly fade out playing on "Racing in The Streets" literally made that song for me. The lyrics are spent and the drum keeps on ticking like a clock and Phantom Dan's rolling, sad sounding organ carries on ad infinitum. Maybe those two never do stop racing.
He added fun to the songs as well. Ramrod wouldn't sound complete without his bouncing, roller rink soundtrack bopping along in the background. And his signature sound on "Glory Days" jumped right off the vinyl and into my feet. Yep...the guy was the Zamboni. He ran through his job in modest humility and made everything around him seem better. me one other rock accordion player, that actually had a serious contribution. (thus eliminating "weird Al".) I don't know what was more genius, Bruce incorporating an accordion into rock music or Dan playing the accordion like it was a rock instrument. Let's call it a tie.
For me this hits like losing a family member. I have been a die hard Springsteen junkie for 33 years now. And while I have lately grown weary of his political nonsense, and frustrated with his constant insistence on tinkering with the recipe, I will always be loyal. His recent raving about supporting Obama aside...c'mon Bruce...He shares the same vision of America as you? Really? If America was what Obama said it was, (a) nobody would have enough money to BUY your albums, thereby reducing you to still jumping onstage at The Stone Pony with Southside Johnny, (b) we'd all be forced to feel really bad for poor Clarence who is obviously outnumbered by all those racist honkies in your band (c) He is a Harvard Law Grad and lives in a mcMansion on Lakeshore have a private jet and welshed on a deal to by your daughter an $850,000 about you write a song about MY America for a change.
But this is about Danny and so I'll drop the spleen vent.
The E-Streeters are like an extension of family for me. I knew who "Little Steven" was long before he wore that hairpiece and pouted into the camera as Tony Soprano's consiglierie. I knew who Maureen Van Zandt was long before she was Gab Dante. I've driven past Garry Tallents house here in Nashville. My Uncle Jacks' best friend's sister was "Sister Joan" who once stuffed Bruce Springsteen in the garbage can in the third grade. I have history with these people.
I will miss Phantom Dan more than I realize right now. And sadly, it marks the passing of time for me as well. The first of my beloved E Street band have passed. Time waits for no man. Not even legendary accordion players from Flemington N.J. who quietly lend stability and solidity to the greatest Rock show on Earth.
I remember hearing the news on my car radio that Stevie Ray Vaughan had died. I pulled over and wept. I loved that guy. He grabbed me with his playing and with the honesty of his struggles.
Today I was watching the various fan tributes and the official video on Bruces' site where Danny plays "Sandy" for the last time. I wept too but it was different. Watching these guys playing with Danny for what they obviously knew was the final time. Seeing the emotion that a stoic Bruce tried to hide, no doubt to encourage his friend. Hearing the crowd yelling "Dan-ny" and seeing Federici at once moved by it and embracing it and yet seemingly not wanting to let it get the best of him and thereby maybe admit the end was near. It was all so sad and so permanent.
Rest in Peace Phantom Dan. You are missed and you are loved.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

R.I.P. Phantom Dan

Phantom Dan Federici passed away 4/17. To a Bruce fanatic like me, losing an E Streeter is like losing a brother. Danny is the first of the band to pass away. I feel old today. He was a quiet but unmistakable force in Bruce's music. without him, those great boardwalk sounds just don't exist. "Sandy" doesn't sound like you are at the beach without Dan's accordian, and Hungry Hearts' organ solo is one of the all time greats. He was as much a signature sound as Clarences sax or Little Stevens growling whining background vocals. He will not just be missed...he will be mourned.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Father's Heart

It is 7:30 in the evening as I write this.
I have been thinking of a new blog topic for a few days now. It's been really good for me to write these and I had forgotten how much I love writing. I don't think it is a stretch to say that communication is one of my gifts. And I am thankful for that.
Tonight is a typical night for me. I miss my daughter immensely and I can't do anything about it.
I can't call her, I can't go see her. Can't tuck her in tonight and listen to her recap her day and say her prayers.
I miss that a lot because my daughter is truly powerful in prayer. At 9 years old she has mastered the fine art of trusting God totally and completely that what He says, He means...starting with "whatever you ask in my name, believing, you will receive."
I could list the litany of prayers she has offered and the miraculous responses God has granted, but that would take all night. From bringing back a lost cat to daddy getting a loan closed that didn't look very promising...she has gotten through to God when I didn't think it was possible.
It's amazing what kind of faith can be built into a child when her parents start early. Morgan loves God with all her heart and it makes me very happy.
I miss her tonight. She needs her daddy these days. She is going to be 10 in a few weeks and she is prepubescent and starting to become very aware of changes that are just around the corner for her. She is so smart! She already knows and understands what is happening with her and while it scares her a little, she is basically ready for it.
But she is also at an awkward stage right now and I think she needs some extra love and reassurance from her daddy, and these are the moments when I miss her the greatest and this divorce hurts the most.
She has gotten braces recently. She inherited her uncle James very crooked and crowded smile. I have a crowding issue too, and am getting braces of my own, but Morgan's were very severe.
She is such a good natured kid that she never said anything at first but over the last year she has begun to verbalize her discomfort with the appearance of her smile and her glasses. She used to love her glasses, now she talks about contacts.
Under it all is my little girl becoming a little woman and needing her daddy to make sure she knows she is beautiful. And her daddy has to be so careful to define beauty as God sees it and not as the world sees it.
Years ago my friend Kim sang a song called "Charm is Deceitful", based on Proverbs 31. Kim has the most beautiful, distinctive voice I have ever heard and her rendering of the song is deeply moving. I heard it when it first came out in the late 80's. Now 20 years later, knowing Kim as I do, and knowing that she truly embodies the woman she sings about, I appreciate the song even more.
I have been working on a jewelry box for Morgan and I found a place that will transcribe Kim's song into a real old fashioned wind up music box player with the little metal wheel that plucks the tiny steel rods and makes that distinctive music box sound. I hope to give it to her this next Christmas.
Thinking about my daughter always makes me think about God and His fatherly relationship with us. I miss her so much when she is's palpable and painful. I believe God feels like that toward us. Especially if we miss spending some time with Him. He longs to wrap His arms around us and hold us closely in His arms and run His fingers through our hair and notice our sweet childlike features and smell our baby powder smells. He wants to listen to our silly stories and help us dream our dreams. He longs to feel our head on His shoulder and our breath on His neck as we fall asleep in His embrace. Why else would He reference Himself so frequently as our Father? He certainly could have used a different analogy. But He chose to call Himself "Father"..."Abba"...(some cultures use the word "Pappa"). And in turn, we tend to relate to Him as we relate to our earthly fathers. If our dad was mean, distant, cold...we view God in those terms and don't approach Him boldly in childlike faith...or even at all.
If Our father was greedy and unapproachable and selfish, we see God as wholly uninterested in answering our prayers. It may instill some mythical self sufficiency in us on earth, but it renders us useless in prayer. We approach the throne in trepidation and defeat, convinced before we open our mouths, that God doesn't wish to get involved, the answer is "no", and we must handle it ourselves.
But if we have a father who loves us, who adores us, who lets us know that we are the single most important thing in his world and his every breath is spent in loving and providing for us, then we see God as He longs to be seen. Passionately in love with us and eager to answer our every request in the way that is best for us.
This is why it is so important that dad's do it right when it comes to our children. I have to walk a fine line between giving her everything she asks for and saying "no" too frequently and exasperating her. When it comes to correction I have to walk the even finer line between controlling her will, and nurturing her spirit. If you do that backwards you ruin a child for life.

I want my daughter to approach prayer the way she approaches me. I want her to think, down in her soul..."God says He is my fact He says He is a better Father than my Daddy".
I want that to be a great realization for her. I want her to instantly think, in the moments when she approaches God in prayer, that her Heavenly father is anxiously awaiting her request, head cocked, ears attentive, hands ready to move on her behalf, with a heart overflowing with abundance just waiting for her to ask Him. I want her to envision a God with answers to her questions, solutions to her problems, provision for her dreams, and protection for her hopes.
I want her to know that, while she may one day be too big to crawl up in my lap and let me love on her, she will never get to that point with her Heavenly Father. And I want to set such an example that she knows this truth and acts on it every day of her life.
When she read the verses that say "If you men on earth, being human and having a sin nature, would never hold back any good thing from your child, how much more will your perfect Heavenly Father not hold back from His children?" I want her to have a reference point of my love for her. I hope she is almost bewildered to think that God could love her more than I do, because she is aware that I love her so much. Of all the legacy I could pass on to her, that would be the greatest. what a Father's Heart is like.