April 18, 2008 / 6:26 PM / in 11 years

Springsteen keyboardist Danny Federici dies at 58

Bruce Springsteen performs with Steve Van Zandt (R) and the E Street Band during his world tour to promote his new album "Magic" at Forum in Copenhagen, December 8, 2007. REUTERS/Nils Meilvang/Scanpix

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Keyboardist Danny Federici, who for four decades played alongside rock star Bruce Springsteen as part of the E Street Band and helped define his rollicking sound, has died of melanoma. He was 58.

Federici’s death at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York on Thursday was announced on Springsteen’s official Web site and the rocker postponed a pair of weekend concerts in Florida.

“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,” Springsteen said on the Web site.

Federici had suffered from melanoma for three years and last played with the E Street Band at a concert in Indianapolis on March 20, delivering an accordion solo on the song “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).”

Like Springsteen, Federici was born in New Jersey and played the accordion from an early age, performing at parties and clubs and developing an interest in jazz and blues music.

He first joined Springsteen in the late 1960s, when the singer songwriter who would become known as “The Boss” was still an unknown, and Federici’s organ, accordion and keyboard work was considered a key part of the E Street Band’s signature sound on such songs as “Hungry Heart.”

Nicknamed “Phantom,” he was often overshadowed onstage by the out-sized presence of saxophone player Clarence Clemons, but on leaving the band to seek treatment for his illness in November of last year, Federici was described by Springsteen as “one of the pillars of our sound.”

When Springsteen put the E Street Band on hiatus during the 1990s to explore other projects, Federici recorded a solo jazz album titled “Flemington” after his New Jersey hometown. He released a second album, “Sweet,” in 2004.

Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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