Bruce Springsteen's E Street Keyboardist Dies

Some of the most emailed, viewed and commented on stories on the web, including news that E Street band member Danny Federici died at 58 years old after battling melanoma for three years.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Hey, welcome back to the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. Online all the time at npr.org/bryantpark. This is the part of the show democracy in action. We cruise the Internet, we find out what you are emailing, what you're viewing and what you're commenting on and blogging. It is The Most.

Ian, in your story this morning you asked us all to wait until the segments, to get involved or to do any research.

IAN CHILLAG: Yes. We are going to have a little quiz. I don't want anybody cheating. There was a most popular on CNN.com that this Florida anthropologist using 50,000 year-old fossils from France had modelled the Neanderthal vocal tracks to get a sense for what Neanderthals sounded like when they spoke and he built a computer, a synthesiser which basically made Neanderthal sound. But I thought first, we would all try and imagine what we thought Neanderthals sounded like. So would anyone like to guess what a Neanderthal sounded like?

MARTIN: Do I think I know what a Neanderthal sounds like?

CHILLAG: I thought it might be like Cookie Monster.

ALISON STEWART: I have one: Your world brightens and confuses me, because I am an unfrozen caveman lawyer.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: I think he sounds like a really drunk guy.

CHILLAG: Can we hear?

STEWART: Oh, we're supposed to do an imitation?

CHILLAG: That is what I am hoping for.

MARTIN: Oh how about Ewok?

DAN PASHMAN: I think it will be totally underwhelming, just like hey, how's it going, I am a Neanderthal. I think it is like me want kill.

CHILLAG: Here it is, a Neanderthal, saying the letter E.

(Soundbite of Neanderthal)

Unidentified Voice: Eee.

CHILLAG: That is a Neanderthal, let's hear it again.

(Soundbite of Neanderthal)

Unidentified Voice: Eee.

MARTIN: It's E.T.

CHILLAG: Ladies and gentleman the Neanderthal carrying clubs around. They were all like:

(Soundbite of Neanderthal)

Unidentified Voice: Eee.

PASHMAN: That is the worst science experiment ever.

MARTIN: That sounds like that a mono-syllabic beaker.

CHILLAG: So this anthropologist is going to try and reconstruct a sentence with his computer model, so I will stay tuned to that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Dan, what do you have?

PASHMAN: Hey guys, I have a most emailed here from Yahoo News. Pentagon Institute calls Iraq war a major debacle without in doubt, and this report comes from the National Defense University which is the Pentagon's premier military educational institute and they have some strong words in this report that just came out yesterday, about the Iraq war which counters some of the more optimistic predictions coming out of the administration and they say the war is a major debacle and the outcome is in doubt. It should be said that this report was prepared before some recent improvements in the security situation there, but not an optimistic report from the National Defense University.

MARTIN: Breaking news. The war is not going well.

PASHMAN: Right, debacle, not a domestic word.

MARTIN: No.

PASHMAN: True.

MARTIN: Tricia McKinney.

TRICIA MCKINNEY: Yes, I have number five this morning on Google Trends was the name of Aliza Shvarts, and it turns out that she is a Yale University art student who was reported on yesterday in the Yale Daily News, a student newspaper, saying that she had done this art piece that involved her artificially inseminating herself and then inducing abortion, and she was going to use the results to make an art project.

Of course, this caused a lot of outrage and then later she was confronted by Yale University officials and reportedly admitted to them that the whole thing was an elaborate performance art project. So apparently she was never pregnant she never induced an abortion. She was planning to do an art project, and project video of herself performing one of these procedures, and I don't know if that is even going to happen any more. So there you go.

STEWART: I have no words or comment on that story.

MCKINNEY: What did she say this morning?

MARTIN: OK, I said I hate performance art. If that's performance art than I hate performance art. I said it.

MCKINNEY: It is one of those things that get people who don't like performance art to give them some ammunition. Hurry, someone who does performance art, please do something I like.

STEWART: Rachel, what do you have?

MARTIN: I have a sad story. One of the founding members of the E Street Band has passed away. Danny Federici, he is the long time keyboard player for Bruce Springsteen. He battled melanoma for three years, and he died recently in New York, succumbing to that cancer and it was actually, according to this report, it was Federici who invited Springsteen to join their band many years ago.

MARTIN: Dan Pashman, you are the expert.

PASHMAN: That was a good move by Dan Federici I think, but it is unfortunate, he actually left the band a few months ago to deal with his treatment full time, and it had a sad ending. He joined the band on tour for a surprise visit back on March 20th in Indianapolis to play a song called "Sandy" which is kind of an obscure fan favorite Bruce song, but it features Dan Federici on the accordion and that has been posted on Bruce's Web site, so we have a clip of Dan Federici's last performance for the E Street Band.

(Soundbite of song "Sandy")

Mr. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (E St. Band): (Singing) Well, Sandy the aurora is rising behind us. The pier lights our carnival life on the water.

MARTIN: So we remember Dan Federici of the E Street Band.

STEWART: We have another rock band in the most category. Yahoo Buzz for the most searched terms. "Jane's Addiction" was on the list today and the reason is that the four original members of Jane's Addiction will reunite for an award. Some of the other members had reunited in the past. There was one hold out. The bass player, Eric Avery, had not played with these guys since 1991. He refused to get back with the band. Remember Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers was in there for a while. What would make him join the band again? They are getting an award from NME, that British music magazine. They will be in L.A. on April 23rd and the award they are getting is the God-Like Genius Award. So it is like, fine.

MARTIN: Put me in Mensa and I will show up.

PASHMAN: They offered him the genius award and he was like no, I am not coming. OK, the God-like Genius Award.

STEWART: They are getting it for their contribution for songs like this.

(Soundbite of song, "Jane's Addiction")

PASHMAN: Classic, yes.

STEWART: That is from "Ritual" and "Nothing Shocking" in 1998. Those are two albums they cited for their God-Like Genius Award, so they will be back on stage.

MARTIN: I like them.

STEWART: I have always liked them, but that is a title.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Matt, what do you have?

MATT MARTINEZ: I have one of the most emailed stories at NPR right now. It is taking the temperature of a Weather Channel fan. The channel has 85 million viewers a month. Can you believe that? It is huge. It has obviously groupies, people who just love the Weather Channel. Did you know Bob Garfield of On the Media was a huge Weather Channel fan? Not sure if he is, but he did a piece a couple of years ago on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Anyway reporter Chana Joffe-Walt did this report about the Weather Channel's biggest fans.

CHANA JOFFE-WALT: I want to help you see what I'm seeing right here in front of me, a whirlpool, a couch, a television, a middle-aged man and he's in this state. It is hard to describe. OK, so you know how when a toddler who has not really been exposed to TV, sees one and his eyes kind of lock, his mouth and his little shoulders, everything just gets really still? That is Doug Olson the moment this channel flickers to life.

(Soundbite of TV weather show)

JOFFE-WALT: I point out to Olson that he appears to be transfixed.

Mr. OLSON (Teacher, Weather Channel Fan): The Weather Channel is a fascinating station.

JOFFE-WALT: Olson teaches sixth grade on Bainbridge Island, it's across Puget Sound from Seattle. He has got a Mr. Rogers personality, and fashion sense, and he is a weather fanatic. The lows, the highs, the wind chills, and the records. The guy cannot get enough.

Mr. OLSON: I am not addicted to the weather, but I can watch it a lot. I can watch and cycle through all the national weather, once, twice, and three times.

JOFFE-WALT: So Olson always knows where the hottest and coldest places in the country are, the most rainfall, the strongest winds, and he loves it when his favorite reporters take him to the extreme weather.

Mr. OLSON: I have sometimes watched a couple of them slip and fall when they are trying to talk and it's just pouring down rain and wind and everything else, but you can feel the weather when you watch a program like that.

JOFFE-WALT: Olson's grandfather was weather crazy too. He took temperature measurements on his Northern Idaho farm for decades. So as soon as Olson could together enough money, he set up his own weather station. It sits on the roof of his school and computes new data every second, and at the end of the year, he unveils it. The average annual temperature.

Mr. OLSON: We have had many years of varying less than one tenth of a degree and then we had one year, about five years go, that it was four degrees higher. It was just stunning and I just realised I know something nobody else knows.

JOFFE-WALT: The Weather Channel may be able to offer reports on his region, but only Olson has accurate weather information for his exact location and that is pretty valuable. City engineers call him often for records and averages, so do realtors, and one time there was a car accident and one driver claimed he skidded on ice and the police actually called Olson to find out if it was possible that there was ice in that spot on that day. OK, but on top of all of that, Olson's weather station actually sees the partly sunny light of day every single morning. Move over Weather Channel and make room for the Sukai(ph) Intermediate School weather broadcast.

Mr. OLSON: Five, four, three, two, one.

JOFFE-WALT: Olson created his own mini weather channel at his school. His data, his sixth grade students, and kid-friendly weather casting characters.

Unidentified Child #1: Hi. I am Spiderman.

Unidentified Child #2: And I am Robin. It has only rained three nineteen-hundreths of an inch this month. I wonder if we'll double that.

Unidentified Child #3: Wow, the low last night was 33 degrees.

JOFFE-WALT: Now, I do need to step in here, just to be clear in case you think Doug Olson is some weather-crazed guy who obsessively measures solar brightness and has his students perform the Weather Channel for him. He is all of these things, but Olson is actually also an incredibly well-rounded guy, a fabulous teacher, a lovely husband. Normal accomplished people have been obsessing about the weather long before the Weather Channel and they have had the bug way worse. Like this one guy, he had to travel to Philadelphia for work and he brought his weather equipment with him. That man? Thomas Jefferson. Just making sure that signing the Declaration of Independence did not get in the way of his 50 years of weather recordings.

MARTIN: That is reporter Chana Joffe-Walt. Links to all the stories you have heard are on our Web site, npr.org/bryantpark.

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