Terry's Song

Toyota Center ~ April 14, 2008

Frank "Terry" Magovern, of Rumson, passed away Monday, July 30, 2007

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I first met Terry in 1972. I'd just returned from California after an unsuccessful attempt to live as a musician in the Bay Area. Steve's band, the Sundance Blues Band, were booked at the Captain's Garter in Neptune, New Jersey. I sat in with Steve and we played to a packed and cheering crowd. This was a job we needed, bad. I was broke. After the show, sweaty and triumphant, Steve and I went back to meet the manager of the place, figuring we were this guy's dream come true. There behind the desk, windbreaker on, stood a large and not very friendly light-haired man. He explained slowly and carefully, that yes, while the crowd was large and loud, that no one was drinking. They were too busy listening to the music, and if we hadn't noticed this was a bar, therefore, our services in the future would not be necessary. This was my first introduction to the clear, hard headed thinking of Terry Magovern. He fired me! It was the beginning of a long and beautiful relationship.

Terry stood as a strange New Jersey version of "the catcher in the rye," out on the edge of some windswept cliff keeping children from rushing over the edge. He was always busy saving something or somebody. It was his blessing and his tragedy. It's no wonder some savvy commander spotted this in him and chose him for the Mercury Program, a frogman to pull astronauts out of the water after their lonely trip through space. It's no wonder that Terry's occupation of choice here on the Jersey Shore was lifeguard. His theme song should have been "You Gotta Serve Somebody." For "T" this idea seemed to include most of the human race with the exception of one...Terry Magovern. That was one rescue mission he was always underprepared for.

Terry and my 23 years together were marked by the quiet, slow, methodical rituals of two men comfortably alone together, doing a job. Over time that methodicalness evolved into something deeply personal. The small things: Terry's door open next to mine in every hotel of the past two decades, Terry in his best Ed McMahon voice as I stepped into the van at the end of each show saying "you have conquered another city, Oh Great One", me answering, "yes, we have" then silence for the rest of the ride home, the emptying of everything from my pockets into Terry's hands as I was about to go onstage, these are the things I'm going to miss.

Out of all of Terry's unusual qualities the one that was least noticed but most deeply felt was his permanence. Everything about Terry spoke of permanence. This is why his death is so difficult to fathom. His size, his face, his gait, the tempo at which he met the world, all spoke of mastery over time, control of space, and permanence. I never saw Terry rush, though I'm sure I gave him occasion to. I never saw Terry panic, though one night we were in a very small plane in a very big wind and for 30 or 40 long seconds it appeared like the pilots were really not going to keep us in the air. My agent Barry Bell was there and I watched as he renewed his faith in Judaism. A New York Times reporter was with us his eyes rolled back into his head as if imagining tomorrow's headlines: "Bruce Springsteen and others..." Whatever I was doing, I'm sure it wasn't pretty. I turned to Terry and he was sitting extremely still, the mask of Irish fatalism fixed firmly to his face. We survived.

Encountering Terry was like coming across a huge rock formation in the desert: you could go around it, ignore it, climb over it, though that would be ill-advised, but you had to deal with its presence, its permanence. One evening I was concerned about a security issue. Terry assured me he was "the baddest man on the planet...for sixty seconds". Over the last few years watching Terry battle cancer, heart problems, the death of his fiancée Joan Dancy, you couldn't help but observe that those seconds had wound down to probably a very vicious "10." Then they ran out.

Some people when they die take whole worlds with them. That's Terry Magovern. Terry was the last great symbol of the raging honky tonk Jersey Shore scene of the 60's and 70's. Bar manager, bouncer, lifeguard, father, grandfather, loyal friend, faithful working companion, Terry covered it all. From Asbury Park to Timbuktu there are people weeping and wondering... "HOW AM I GONNA GET IN?!!!"

So here on E Street we say goodbye to our good friend, our New Jersey "catcher in the rye", and to the rest of you we say don't go rushing too hard towards the edge of that cliff. There's going to be two strong arms that aren't going to be there to catch you. Terry, when they built you, brother, they broke the mold.

Bruce Springsteen
August 20, 2007

Well they built the Titanic to be one of a kind,
but many ships have ruled the seas
They built the Eiffel Tower to stand alone, but
they could build another if they please
Taj Mahal, the pyramids of Egypt, are unique I suppose
But when they built you, brother, they broke the mold

Now the world is filled with many wonders under the passing sun
And sometimes something comes along and you know it's for sure the only one
The Mona Lisa, the David, the Sistine Chapel, Jesus, Mary, and Joe
And when they built you, brother, they broke the mold

When they built you, brother, they turned dust into gold
When they built you, brother, they broke the mold

They say you can't take it with you, but I think that they're wrong
'Cause all I know is I woke up this morning, and something big was gone
Gone into that dark ether where you're still young and hard and cold
Just like when they built you, brother, they broke the mold

Now your death is upon us and we'll return your ashes to the earth
And I know you'll take comfort in knowing you've been roundly blessed and cursed
But love is a power greater than death, just like the songs and stories told
And when she built you, brother, she broke the mold

That attitude's a power stronger than death, alive and burning her stone cold
When they built you, brother