When I was nine, the Texas Longhorns won the national championship running the new Wishbone offense. I listened to all their games on the radio – every gridiron clash wasn’t on TV in 1969 – and came to revere the quarterback… James Street. He was my boyhood hero. About 25 years ago, I met him at a dinner, and found myself completely in awe and speechless.
The only other celebrity I hold in the highest esteem is Bruce Springsteen. (And if you’ve read any of my newsletters over the last nine years, you already knew that.) It’s not Springsteen the man I admire… for he has plenty of flaws and is the first to admit them. It’s the poet and rocker who looks at the canvas of our world and artistically comments on what he sees. Of course, you can’t mention The Boss without including his incredibly talented E Street Band. I’ve seen them play at least a dozen times since 1978.
In the last few years, Springsteen’s keyboardist Danny Federici and saxophonist Clarence Clemons passed away. Imagine losing two people you stood beside on stage for more than 40 years. That must create a deep hole in your heart and big talent gap in your performance.
The redesigned E Street Band, featuring new members including Clarence’s nephew on sax, just embarked on a worldwide tour. On the first night, during Tenth Avenue Freezeout, at the point where Springsteen normally sings, “When the change was made uptown and the Big Man joined the band,’ everyone went silence in a tribute to their departed mate.
“We spent a lot of time thinking about this show and talking about it,” guitarist Steve Van Zandt told Rolling Stone this month. “The horn section was a good answer to the unanswerable: ‘How do you replace Clarence Clemons?’ Well, you don’t. It’s real simple. The same way you replace Danny Federici. You don’t. You have somebody else playing those parts, but you have to do something else, you have to morph it into a hybrid of what you were. It’s not going to be the same.”
Every team – sports, music and business – loses members… whether by trade, termination or death. While those times create difficult challenges, there is always someone new ready for his/her opportunity. As a leader, your job is to give them a chance to shine. When it happens, remember the wisdom of Born to Run: “Someday girl I don’t when we’re gonna get to that place where we really want to go and we’ll walk in the sun…”