What do music legends Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin, Santana and Peter Gabriel have in common? David Sancious.
The keyboardist, guitarist, producer and composer tickled the ivories in Bruce Springsteen’s first lineup of The E Street Band. He’s played alongside Sting the past two decades. This September, Sancious is touring with Peter Gabriel to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Gabriel’s So LP.
Sancious, whose career has spanned four decades, likes the mystique. He doesn’t care to let hit records or gold and platinum sales define his longevity.
Positive energy, the modest, multi-talented performer believes, is rewarding enough. “You don’t start out wanting to be perceived as great. The only thing you want to do is get better and better at playing. It’s not driven by any perception of wanting to be perceived by the world at all. Those details come later,” says Sancious.
Sancious’ impeccable keystrokes and stellar work ethic also landed him sessions and performances alongside Eric Clapton, Billy Cobham, Jeff Beck, Santana, Yes’ Jon Anderson, Bryan Ferry, Hall & Oates, Aretha Franklin, Seal, Stanley Clarke, Zucchero Fornaciari, Natalie Merchant, Narada Michael Walden, Stacy Lattisaw, Phyllis Hyman, Larry Graham, Patti LaBelle, Youssou N’dour and Angelique Kidjo.
“It comes down to dedication and how much you devote yourself to it. We all really enjoy working together. You have to have a natural love for it without having to be told anything or have anything explained to you,” he says.
Growing up in Asbury Park, NJ the youngest of three boys, Sancious — now 59-years-old – knew early on that music would be his calling. He started playing piano at seven and picked up the guitar four years later. “It’s a lot of fun. You can learn a lot. It’s another window to the music and your own intellectual knowledge to go back and forth between two worlds,” he says.
Sancious recalls being introduced to his influences according to the schedule of the day. “It was Beethoven in the morning, James Brown in the afternoon or John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix in the evening. I experienced a variation of music simultaneously,” he says.
When Sancious was 15, he met “The Boss.” He played in several versions of the unknown rocker’s band before moving to Virginia to perform session work. Upon Sancious’ return to New Jersey a year later, Springsteen asked the musician to accompany him on his debut album and some gigs around New York.
A tour and three albums later with Springsteen, the soft spoken maestro, along with Ernest Carter and Gerald Carboy, decided to assemble the band, Tone, in 1974. The outfit explored an eclectic range of sounds and rhythms over four albums spanning rock, classical, soul, funk, blues, electronica and world music.
Sancious also recorded five solo projects. He’s currently working on a project that is primarily guitar. “All that does is broaden your whole basis. It directly correlates to the wide array of music I grew up listening to. It’s just a result of the way I am,” says Sancious.
Sancious has accomplished a lot in his extraordinary career. He believes that he has accomplished far beyond his share of goals. His one ambition, however, is as imaginative as his sound. “I’d like to be remembered as a gentleman. I’m interested in being the instrument of music itself and what music will come from me. I want to get it out, have people enjoy it and resonate with it,” he says.
Christopher A. Daniel is a pop cultural critic and music editor for The Burton Wire. He is also a contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.