Such incredibly sad news about actor James Gandolfini who has died of a suspected heart-attack at the age of just 51 while on holiday in Italy. Only a couple of weeks ago Pam Corkery and I were talking on The Two (Newstalk ZB Friday and Sunday evenings from 8pm) about how The Sopranos had just been voted the best written TV show of all time, a show I always liked a great deal and Pam always loved.
Gandolfini played mob boss Tony Soprano from 1999 to 2007 and the thing that struck me today was not only how young he was, but how young he must’ve been when he took on what became one of the most iconic roles in American television history. Doesn’t 37 seem young to play a mob boss? But Gandolfini always had a presence, whether intimidating or vulnerable.
News of Gandolfini’s death is extra tragic when you learn he leaves behind not only a teenage son from his first marriage, but a wife of five years and a baby girl who hasn’t even celebrated her first birthday. As far as tributes go, the creator of The Sopranos David Chase has today called his friend a genius, saying that, “a great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes.”
So with that in mind, here is a song for James Gandolfini, a truly beautiful buried treasure of a Bruce Springsteen* song. Recorded in 1990 and staggeringly left off both of Springsteen’s underbought, simultaneously released 1992 albums Human Touch and Lucky Town, this is one of my favourite of his ballads. Sad, beautiful and a potential hit, this is Sad Eyes.
*The other Springsteen connection to Gandolfini is indeed a major one. Playing the character Silvio on The Sopranos was none other than E Street Band member / Springsteen confidant Steven Van Zandt. Van Zandt, along with the late Clarence Clemons were / are amongst Springsteen’s absolute closest friends. Van Zandt (whose spine-tingling mandolin work during Land Of Hope And Dreams live at Western Springs, Auckland 2003 is permanently etched into my brain) has paid tribute on Twitter to Gandolfini, saying: “I’ve lost a brother and a best friend. The world has lost one of the greatest actors of all time.”