Below is the eulogy delivered by Bruce Springsteen at Danny Federici's funeral on April 21 in Red Bank, New Jersey.
FAREWELL TO DANNY
Let me start with the stories.
Back in the days of miracles, the frontier days when "Mad Dog" Lopez and his temper struck fear into the band, small club owners, innocent civilians and all women, children and small animals.
Back in the days when you could still sign your life away on the hood of a parked car in New York City.
Back shortly after a young red-headed accordionist struck gold on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour and he and his mama were sent to Switzerland to show them how it's really done.
Back before beach bums were featured on the cover of Time magazine.
I'm talking about back when the E Street Band was a communist organization! My pal, quiet, shy Dan Federici, was a one-man creator of some of the hairiest circumstances of our 40 year career... And that wasn't easy to do. He had "Mad Dog" Lopez to compete with.... Danny just outlasted him.
Maybe it was the "police riot" in Middletown, New Jersey. A show we were doing to raise bail money for "Mad Log" Lopez who was in jail in Richmond, Virginia, for having an altercation with police officers who we'd aggravated by playing too long. Danny allegedly knocked over our huge Marshall stacks on some of Middletown's finest who had rushed the stage because we broke the law by...playing too long.
As I stood there watching, several police officers crawled out from underneath the speaker cabinets and rushed away to seek medical attention. Another nice young officer stood in front of me onstage waving his nightstick, poking and calling me nasty names. I looked over to see Danny with a beefy police officer pulling on one arm while Flo Federici, his first wife, pulled on the other, assisting her man in resisting arrest.
A kid leapt from the audience onto the stage, momentarily distracting the beefy officer with the insults of the day. Forever thereafter, "Phantom" Dan Federici slipped into the crowd and disappeared.
A warrant out for his arrest and one month on the lam later, he still hadn't been brought to justice. We hid him in various places but now we had a problem. We had a show coming at Monmouth College. We needed the money and we had to do the gig. We tried a replacement but it didn't work out. So Danny, to all of our admiration, stepped up and said he'd risk his freedom, take the chance and play.
Show night. 2,000 screaming fans in the Monmouth College gym. We had it worked out so Danny would not appear onstage until the moment we started playing. We figured the police who were there to arrest him wouldn't do so onstage during the show and risk starting another riot.
Let me set the scene for you. Danny is hiding, hunkered down in the backseat of a car in the parking lot. At five minutes to eight, our scheduled start time, I go out to whisk him in. I tap on the window.
"Danny, come on, it's time."
I hear back, "I'm not going."
Me: "What do you mean you're not going?"
Danny: "The cops are on the roof of the gym. I've seen them and they're going to nail me the minute I step out of this car."
As I open the door, I realize that Danny has been smoking a little something and had grown rather paranoid. I said, "Dan, there are no cops on the roof."
He says, "Yes, I saw them, I tell you. I'm not coming in."
So I used a procedure I'd call on often over the next forty years in dealing with my old pal's concerns. I threatened him...and cajoled. Finally, out he came. Across the parking lot and into the gym we swept for a rapturous concert during which we laughed like thieves at our excellent dodge of the local cops.
At the end of the evening, during the last song, I pulled the entire crowd up onto the stage and Danny slipped into the audience and out the front door. Once again, "Phantom" Dan had made his exit. (I still get the occasional card from the old Chief of Police of Middletown wishing us well. Our histories are forever intertwined.) And that, my friends, was only the beginning.
There was the time Danny quit the band during a rough period at Max's Kansas City, explaining to me that he was leaving to fix televisions. I asked him to think about that and come back later.
Or Danny, in the band rental car, bouncing off several parked cars after a night of entertainment, smashing out the windshield with his head but saved from severe injury by the huge hard cowboy hat he bought in Texas on our last Western swing.
Or Danny, leaving a large marijuana plant on the front seat of his car in a tow away zone. The car was promptly towed. He said, "Bruce, I'm going to go down and report that it was stolen." I said, "I'm not sure that's a good idea."
Down he went and straight into the slammer without passing go.
Or Danny, the only member of the E Street Band to be physically thrown out of the Stone Pony. Considering all the money we made them, that wasn't easy to do.
Or Danny receiving and surviving a "cautionary assault" from an enraged but restrained "Big Man" Clarence Clemons while they were living together and Danny finally drove the "Big Man" over the big top.
Or Danny assisting me in removing my foot from his stereo speaker after being the only band member ever to drive me into a violent rage.
And through it all, Danny played his beautiful, soulful B3 organ for me and our love grew. And continued to grow. Life is funny like that. He was my homeboy, and great, and for that you make considerations... And he was much more tolerant of my failures than I was of his.
When Danny wasn't causing chaos, he was a sweet, talented, unassuming, unpretentious good-hearted guy who simply had an unchecked ability to make good fortune and things in general go fabulously wrong.
But beyond all of that, he also had a mountain of the right stuff. He had the heart and soul of an engineer. He learned to fly. He was always up on the latest technology and would explain it to you patiently and in enormous detail. He was always "souping" something up, his car, his stereo, his B3. When Patti joined the band, he was the most welcoming, thoughtful, kindest friend to the first woman entering our "boys club."
He loved his kids, always bragging about Jason, Harley, and Madison, and he loved his wife Maya for the new things she brought into his life.
And then there was his artistry. He was the most intuitive player I've ever seen. His style was slippery and fluid, drawn to the spaces the other musicians in the E Street Band left. He wasn't an assertive player, he was a complementary player. A true accompanist. He naturally supplied the glue that bound the band's sound together. In doing so, he created for himself a very specific style. When you hear Dan Federici, you don't hear a blanket of sound, you hear a riff, packed with energy, flying above everything else for a few moments and then gone back in the track. "Phantom" Dan Federici. Now you hear him, now you don't.
Offstage, Danny couldn't recite a lyric or a chord progression for one of my songs. Onstage, his ears opened up. He listened, he felt, he played, finding the perfect hole and placement for a chord or a flurry of notes. This style created a tremendous feeling of spontaneity in our ensemble playing.
In the studio, if I wanted to loosen up the track we were recording, I'd put Danny on it and not tell him what to play. I'd just set him loose. He brought with him the sound of the carnival, the amusements, the boardwalk, the beach, the geography of our youth and the heart and soul of the birthplace of the E Street Band.
Then we grew up. Very slowly. We stood together through a lot of trials and tribulations. Danny's response to a mistake onstage, hard times, catastrophic events was usually a shrug and a smile. Sort of an "I am but one man in a raging sea, but I'm still afloat. And we're all still here."
I watched Danny fight and conquer some tough addictions. I watched him struggle to put his life together and in the last decade when the band reunited, thrive on sitting in his seat behind that big B3, filled with life and, yes, a new maturity, passion for his job, his family and his home in the brother and sisterhood of our band.
Finally, I watched him fight his cancer without complaint and with great courage and spirit. When I asked him how things looked, he just said, "what are you going to do? I'm looking forward to tomorrow." Danny, the sunny side up fatalist. He never gave up right to the end.
A few weeks back we ended up onstage in Indianapolis for what would be the last time. Before we went on I asked him what he wanted to play and he said, "Sandy." He wanted to strap on the accordion and revisit the boardwalk of our youth during the summer nights when we'd walk along the boards with all the time in the world.
So what if we just smashed into three parked cars, it's a beautiful night! So what if we're on the lam from the entire Middletown police department, let's go take a swim! He wanted to play once more the song that is of course about the end of something wonderful and the beginning of something unknown and new.
Let's go back to the days of miracles. Pete Townshend said, "a rock and roll band is a crazy thing. You meet some people when you're a kid and unlike any other occupation in the whole world, you're stuck with them your whole life no matter who they are or what crazy things they do."
If we didn't play together, the E Street Band at this point would probably not know one another. We wouldn't be in this room together. But we do... We do play together. And every night at 8 p.m., we walk out on stage together and that, my friends, is a place where miracles occur...old and new miracles. And those you are with, in the presence of miracles, you never forget. Life does not separate you. Death does not separate you. Those you are with who create miracles for you, like Danny did for me every night, you are honored to be amongst.
Of course we all grow up and we know "it's only rock and roll"...but it's not. After a lifetime of watching a man perform his miracle for you, night after night, it feels an awful lot like love.
So today, making another one of his mysterious exits, we say farewell to Danny, "Phantom" Dan, Federici. Father, husband, my brother, my friend, my mystery, my thorn, my rose, my keyboard player, my miracle man and lifelong member in good standing of the house rockin', pants droppin', earth shockin', hard rockin', booty shakin', love makin', heart breakin', soul cryin'... and, yes, death defyin' legendary E Street Band.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
"Death is to me today
like the smell of myrrh,
like sitting under a sail on a windy day.
like sitting under a sail on a windy day.
Death is to me today
like the smell of flowers,
like sitting on the shore of drunkeness."
like the smell of flowers,
like sitting on the shore of drunkeness."
- The dialogue of a man with his soul, c. 1850 BC
When the small business I'd started with two partners in 1994 finally closed in 2002 I had one completed album still unreleased. It had been designed as a "psychedelic super session" of sorts and had guest performances from musicians well known to fans of obscure psychedelia the world over. Its center piece was a twenty-two minute cover version of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band's ground-breaking 1966 composition "East West" which ran the length of side one.
The second side opened with an ethereal folk song called "The Silver Witch" written and performed by Alisha Sufit, the British artist who had fronted the band Magic Carpet in the early 1970s.
It closed with a long musical segment driven by a backwards lead electric guitar and multiple electric basses over which former Dead Kennedys lead singer, Jello Biafra, performed a spoken word piece about psychedelic record collecting called "I Am Not a Collector Potato."
It was a lovely record and it was finally released in 2005 by my friend Michael Piper who released it on CD on his Wild Places label and on a lovely limited gold vinyl edition on his Gates of Dawn label.
I'd known Michael since the early 1990s when we both published mail order rare record catalogs in the dark and mysterious times before the dawn on the internet. I'd met Michael a few times when he passed through Indiana and would stay with us. Through Michael I also met many people including Alisha Sufit who took me into her home in London on my first trip to England because Michael said I was OK.
I had not spoken to Michael since the release of the Many Bright Friends album. I imagined he'd show up some afternoon and we would reconnect they way we had in the past. That's not going to happen now as I learned just the other day that Michael died a few days ago in New York after a short illness. The news of Michael's passing spread through a number of internet music discussion forums where all the messages from his many friends and the many people whose lives he touched over the years can be distilled down to a post in a psychedelic music chat room that Michael's friend, Mike Ascherman left: He was one of the good guys.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
There's a very interesting blog written by a guy named "Matt" and called Paleo-Future: A Look Into the Future that Never Was.
A recent post featured a piece, in its entirety, originally run in the the July 19, 1965 Delta Democrat-Times (Greenville, MS) proclaiming that by the year 2000, "there will be a Negro president of the United States, a Negro on the Supreme Court, [and] one or more in the U.S. Senate."
I've always been fascinated by visions of the "future" because they highlight the problems of the present; nothing fills us with a more complete sense of our own inadequacies than the endless parade of old futures -- flying cars and undersea cities -- whose goals we have missed reaching by enormous amounts.
Perhaps the best vision of the future is the one John Prine describes in his song, "Living in the Future," the chorus of which is:
We're all living in the future / I'll tell you how I know
I read it in the paper / fifteen years ago
We're all flying rocket ships / and talking with our minds
And wearing turquoise jewelry / and standing in soup lines.
But I digress....
The November 1968 issue of Mechanix Illustrated contained an article looking ahead to what life will be like in 2008. "40 years in the Future" by James R. Berry:
"It's 8 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008, and you are headed for a business appointment 300 mi. away. You slide into your sleek, two-passenger air-cushion car, press a sequence of buttons and the national traffic computer notes your destination, figures out the current traffic situation and signals your car to slide out of the garage. Hands free, you sit back and begin to read the morning paper—which is flashed on a flat TV screen over the car’s dashboard. Tapping a button changes the page.
The car accelerates to 150 mph in the city’s suburbs, then hits 250 mph in less built-up areas, gliding over the smooth plastic road. You whizz past a string of cities, many of them covered by the new domes that keep them evenly climatized year round. Traffic is heavy, typically, but there’s no need to worry. The traffic computer, which feeds and receives signals to and from all cars in transit between cities, keeps vehicles at least 50 yds. apart. There hasn’t been an accident since the system was inaugurated. Suddenly your TV phone buzzes. A business associate wants a sketch of a new kind of impeller your firm is putting out for sports boats. You reach for your attache case and draw the diagram with a pencil-thin infrared flashlight on what looks like a TV screen lining the back of the case. The diagram is relayed to a similar screen in your associate’s office, 200 mi. away. He jabs a button and a fixed copy of the sketch rolls out of the device. He wishes you good luck at the coming meeting and signs off.
Ninety minutes after leaving your home, you slide beneath the dome of your destination city. Your car decelerates and heads for an outer-core office building where you’ll meet your colleagues. After you get out, the vehicle parks itself in a convenient municipal garage to await your return. Private cars are banned inside most city cores. Moving sidewalks and electrams carry the public from one location to another.
With the U.S. population having soared to 350 million, 2008 transportation is among the most important factors keeping the economy running smoothly. Giant transportation hubs called modemixers are located anywhere from 15 to 50 mi. outside all major urban centers. Tube trains, pushed through bores by compressed air, make the trip between modemixer and central city in 10 to 15 minutes.
A major feature of most modemixers is the launching pad from which 200-passenger rockets blast off for other continents. For less well-heeled travelers there are SST and hypersonic planes that carry 200 to 300 passengers at speeds up to 4,000 mph. Short trips— between cities less than 1,000 mi. apart—are handled by slower jumbo jets.
Homes in Mi’s 80th year are practically self-maintaining. Electrostatic precipitators clean the air and climatizers maintain the temperature and humidity at optimum levels. Robots are available to do housework and other simple chores. New materials for siding and interiors are self-cleaning and never peel, chip or crack.
Dwellings for the most part are assembled from prefabricated modules, which can be attached speedily in the configuration that best suits the homeowner. Once the foundation is laid, attaching the modules to make up a two- or three-bedroom house is a job that doesn’t take more than a day. Such modular homes easily can be expanded to accommodate a growing family. A typical wedding present for the 21st century newlyweds is a fully equipped bedroom, kitchen or living room module.
Other conveniences ease kitchenwork. The housewife simply determines in advance her menus for the week, then slips prepackaged meals into the freezer and lets the automatic food utility do the rest. At preset times, each meal slides into the microwave oven and is cooked or thawed. The meal then is served on disposable plastic plates. These plates, as well as knives, forks and spoons of the same material, are so inexpensive they can be discarded after use.
The single most important item in 2008 households is the computer. These electronic brains govern everything from meal preparation and waking up the household to assembling shopping lists and keeping track of the bank balance. Sensors in kitchen appliances, climatizing units, communicators, power supply and other household utilities warn the computer when the item is likely to fail. A repairman will show up even before any obvious breakdown occurs.
Computers also handle travel reservations, relay telephone messages, keep track of birthdays and anniversaries, compute taxes and even figure the monthly bills for electricity, water, telephone and other utilities. Not every family has its private computer. Many families reserve time on a city or regional computer to serve their needs. The machine tallies up its own services and submits a bill, just as it does with other utilities.
Money has all but disappeared. Employers deposit salary checks directly into their employees’ accounts. Credit cards are used for paying all bills. Each time you buy something, the card’s number is fed into the store’s computer station. A master computer then deducts the charge from your bank balance.
Computers not only keep track of money, they make spending it easier. TV-telephone shopping is common. To shop, you simply press the numbered code of a giant shopping center. You press another combination to zero in on the department and the merchandise in which you are interested. When you see what you want, you press a number that signifies “buy,” and the household computer takes over, places the order, notifies the store of the home address and subtracts the purchase price from your bank balance. Much of the family shopping is done this way. Instead of being jostled by crowds, shoppers electronically browse through the merchandise of any number of stores.
People have more time for leisure activities in the year 2008. The average work day is about four hours. But the extra time isn’t totally free. The pace of technological advance is such that a certain amount of a jobholder’s spare time is used in keeping up with the new developments—on the average, about two hours of home study a day.
Most of this study is in the form of programmed TV courses, which can be rented or borrowed from tape libraries. In fact most schooling—from first grade through college—consists of programmed TV courses or lectures via closed circuit. Students visit a campus once or twice a week for personal consultations or for lab work that has to be done on site. Progress of each student is followed by computer, which assigns end term marks on the basis of tests given throughout the term.
Besides school lessons, other educational material is available for TV viewing. You simply press a combination of buttons and the pages flash on your home screen. The world’s information is available to you almost instantaneously.
TV screens cover an entire wall in most homes and show most subjects other than straight text matter in color and three dimensions. In addition to programmed TV and the multiplicity of commercial fare, you can see top Broadway shows, hit movies and current nightclub acts for a nominal charge. Best-selling books are on TV tape and can be borrowed or rented from tape libraries.
A typical vacation in 2008 is to spend a week at an undersea resort, where your hotel room window looks out on a tropical underwater reef, a sunken ship or an ancient, excavated city. Available to guests are two- and three-person submarines in which you can cruise well-marked underwater trails.
Another vacation is a stay on a hotel satellite. The rocket ride to the satellite and back, plus the vistas of earth and moon, make a memorable vacation jaunt.
While city life in 2008 has changed greatly, the farm has altered even more. Farmers are business executives running operations as automated as factories. TV scanners monitor tractors and other equipment computer programmed to plow, harrow and harvest. Wires imbedded in the ground send control signals to the machines. Computers also keep track of yields, fertilization, soil composition and other factors influencing crops. At the beginning of each year, a print-out tells the farmer what to plant where, how much to fertilize and how much yield he can expect.
Farming isn't confined to land. Mariculturists have turned areas of the sea into beds of protein-rich seaweed and algae. This raw material is processed into food that looks and tastes like steak and other meats. It also is cheap; families can have steak-like meals twice a day without feeling a budget pinch. Areas in bays or close to shore have been turned into shrimp, lobster, clam and other shellfish ranches, like the cattle spreads of yesteryear.
Medical research has guaranteed that most babies born in the 21st century will live long and healthy lives. Heart disease has virtually been eliminated by drugs and diet. If hearts or other major organs do give trouble, they can be replaced with artificial organs.
Medical examinations are a matter of sitting in a diagnostic chair for a minute or two, then receiving a full health report.
Ultrasensitive microphones and electronic sensors in the chair's headrest, back and armrests pick up heartbeat, pulse, breathing rate, galvanic skin response, blood pressure, nerve reflexes and other medical signs. A computer attached to the chair digests these responses, compares them to the normal standard and prints out a full medical report. No need to worry about failing memory or intelligence either. The intelligence pill is another 21st century commodity. Slow learners or people struck with forgetful-ness are given pills which increase the production of enzymes controlling production of the chemicals known to control learning and memory. Everyone is able to use his full mental potential.
Despite the fact that the year 2008 is only 40 years away—as far ahead as 1928 is in the past—it will be a world as strange to us as our time (1968) would be to the pilgrims."
So.... What the heck happened?
Almost every time I see some story from the 1950s or thereabouts about "Life beyond the year 2000!" I think the exact same thing: Where's my damn flying car?
One thing that almost every vision of the future has in common (this is especially true pre-1940) is an unspoken assumption that, once we get to the future, the wealth of the planet will be more equally shared.
In 2006 “A Landmark Study on Household Wealth” issued by the United Nations, showed that 2% of the people on the planet commandeer half the world’s wealth, while the bottom 50% control, as a whole, only 1%.
This helps explain why, instead of middle-class vacations on satellite space stations, in the real 2008 we are almost ready to offer brief trips in out-of-the-atmosphere "space ships" at $200,000 a pop.
These visions of the future never imagined global climate change and the fossil fuel crisis. Instead of cars that zip along at 500 mph, the actual future is one in which the Concorde, as elegant and beautiful a way to get from New York to Paris as has ever existed, was retired, abandoned. And with it, Donald Fagen's wistful image from his song "I.G.Y."
A just machine to make big decisions
Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision
There'll be spandex jackets, one for everyone.
The Concorde flew from 1969 until 2003, a stretch of about 40 years -- if we extend it back to 1967 (and Expo 67, the World's Fair in Montreal) and take it to the tail end of the Bush Administration -- in which the narrative of a "better future" in which science and technology were the stars and heroes played out. At one end is the promise of Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome, at the other 21st Century battles over teaching Darwin in public school science classrooms.
My flying car never had a chance.
One of my favorite commentaries on this utopian meta-narrative that played out in the science fiction of the first half of the 20th Century is in Richard Brautigan's poem, "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace."
I'd like to think (and the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
like pure water
touching clear sky.
I like to think (right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.
I like to think (it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.