Monday, April 23, 2012

Heaven's Band: Federici and Marley. More Than A Melanoma Bond

I love music. Not all kinds, to be sure, but I love what I love. I'm not musical though. God gave the playing and writing music talents to my brother. Mama tried her level best to work around those facts but after years of trying to make and mold me into a musician, she finally conceded defeat. I said one time that "my musical ability was that I owned an auto-harp." 

That said, I do love music. I have a great appreciation for those that play, write, and share their passion with the rest of us. I love contemporary Christian. But, I also love Rock-and-Roll. My hands down, all time favorites are Bruce Springsteen and Meatloaf. While I love their lyrics, because I'm the kind that loves to belt along (I don't just "sing"...I belt it out loud and strong. I didn't say "good"), The Boss and Meatloaf are nothing without their bands. And the lyrics are nothing without the rhythms and total goodness that the musicians produce. If Bruce had a band made up of people who play like me...well...let's just say he wouldn't be a household word. And "Meatloaf" would still be what people have for supper. They are who they are because their bands are who they are and the caliber musicians they are.

I never was much on reggae, though, until recently. It wasn't something I grew up hearing and WWDR didn't play any. (WWDR is the local radio station I grew up listening to). Reggae entered my life after melanoma did and it entered in the music of Bob Marley, particularly his Three Little Birds.

I've written about Bob Marley before. He died from melanoma and that's important to hold up to people, particularly men with darker skin colors, so they understand it can attack anybody. Marley, though, tried to run from his diagnosis and wasn't upfront about having melanoma. When he died, people weren't always sure what he really died of. Melanoma? Skin cancer? Brain cancer? Cancer?

I have  melanoma and love of music bonds with Marley. I also have those same bonds with Danny Federici who was "the organ, glockenspiel, and accordion player for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band" for almost 40 years. The more I learn about this remarkable man and musician, who didn't try to hide from his melanoma diagnosis but fought and when he died, people knew exactly what he died from, the more I want to know and share. I also hope to leave the kind of legacy he left. The kind of legacy that takes something like melanoma and turns it into a blessing.

To digress a minute. This morning God granted me a little 20/20 hindsight so I could get a glimpse of what He's been busy doing. I don't know why He's been busy doing it, but that's OK. My inquiring mind is small and I don't want to know right now. Right now I'm just trying to absorb this much.

I occupy a little corner of Facebook like hundreds of millions of other people worldwide. I haven't crossed paths but with a small fraction of that number. Small fraction behind a decimal and lots of zeros. But I stand amazed at those I've crossed paths with and many share a melanoma bond. Before moving to FB, I had crossed paths with the proprietor of Hotel Melanoma on a melanoma-specific website. I was already a fan of his work before friending him on FB and being named the Chaplain of HM. He claims not to be musical either, not even singing, but he loves Rock and gives a melanoma twist to the classics. Meatloaf is, sadly, missing from his repertoire. Alas and alack. But life goes on.

Rich will be coming to Charlotte, NC and participating in the Aim at Melanoma Walk November 17th. At the after party that night, we'll all be singing some of his songs and it occurred to me that we need to sing some Marley and some Springsteen. Marley because he's one of us and Springsteen to honor Danny Federici who's one of us.

And you know what? Because of melanoma, God had already crossed my path with someone who can tell me about Danny, both as a musician and as a warrior, and as a  person who was both and more. I didn't realize her connection till very recently and she's been most generous in sharing with me and I greatly appreciate her openness. I choose to honor her privacy here, and I also choose to honor her story and life with Danny and will not go into it at all. That's hers to share as she wishes and certainly not mine. I just stand back and marvel that God crossed our paths.

Because of her sharing with me, I'm more strongly convinced now more than ever that melanoma cannot kill our spirit, our drive, even at the end. I'm more convinced of the kind of legacy I want to leave. I'm more convinced of the kind of life I want to lead in the face of melanoma. Danny epitomizes, fully, living in the face of dying and giving it one's all. He epitomizes using our God-given talents until the end, and he epitomizes clarifying the legacy we want to leave and making sure it's done. He had the talent, resources, and connections to do it one way. I have the talent, resources, and connections to do it another. His way fit him. My way fits me.

This is Danny's last performance. March 20, 2008. March 19th he was undergoing treatment at Sloan-Kettering. Read his son's account. April 17th, 2008 Danny Federici died. Heaven gained an awesome accordion player. Now watch the video of that performance.



I stand in awe of anyone with that kind of fortitude and passion. Anyone with that kind of attirude that looks melanoma and death in the face and plays on anyway and in spite of. I can't look at that video, knowing what little I know, and not be amazed by the human spirit. I can't look at him and know how very sick he was. It doesn't show. Melanoma could only do so much. It couldn't kill his love of music, his love of his band, his love of his family, and his love of life. And melanoma couldn't kill their love for him. Watch The Boss' eyes and body language. He loved this guy. They all did and it was returned.

And Heaven has a rocking accordionist and a reggae man. What a band! And earth has memories, legacies, and Danny Fund. Though Danny Fund was begun after Danny's death, it was begun because of his life and his desire to fund melanoma research. Specifically the melanoma research of his doctor at Sloan-Kettering, Dr. Chapman. Dr. Chapman had developed the trial Danny was on and he believed in his work and wanted it funded after his death. Hence, Danny Fund.

Hungry Heart was another Federici signature song. This is one we'll definitely be doing November 17th. Rich already has this one in his repertoire.

We in Melaland all have Hungry Hearts. Hungry Hearts for more treatment options. Hungry Hearts for a cure. Hungry Hearts to kick our own cases of melanoma to the curb and kick melanoma in the butt and out the world's door.

That kind of kicking and hunger takes money and resources. Danny did his part and his part plays on.

It will take all of us playing our parts to make it happen. We all have voices to use and life's instruments to play in this world's orchestra. And we have one life to do it in. Together we can make it happen.

See, I happen to think that we're in the Band of Life. We're in this together. We weren't meant to sing it solo. We're meant to harmonize, rock it up, throw in some reggae, dance through it all, and just like we each bring our strong suits to the table, we also prop each other up when we're at our weakest.

God sang, God sings, God plays, God dances, here with us and there with them.

Right now I get to listen to The Boss and sing along. I get to listen to the jamming sounds of Federici and the uplifting reminder to don't worry be happy because every little thing gonna be all right from Marley.

But one day. Oh man! One day! I'm gonna bump shoulders with Bob, dance with Danny, and sing the songs they play. In person. In Heaven's Band.

Melanoma won't even be in the cheap seats.

Some concerts never end.

And I am grateful!