In 1975, I saw the future of rock and roll and its name was Bruce Springsteen. Darn. I wish I had come up with that line originally, but Jon Landau did. I did see the future in 1975, though: my own, if I didn’t start making plans. I loved Springsteen’s music, but didn’t want to end up like a character from “Meeting Across the River,” or “Jungleland.”
I heard Born To Run and my imagination went wild. Here was this artist painting a New Jersey landscape so vivid and real that a small town girl in Mississippi who had never been to the East Coast could appreciate it. When Bruce wrote, “It’s a town full of losers, and I’m pulling out of here to win,” I revved up my car and drove across the state line. I had to come back though. I was only sixteen. I was just warming up for when I was all grown. After college, I revved up the car again, and left for real, listening to “Thunder Road” as I pulled out of town.
Through the years, he has written songs that have been food for my soul and fuel for my imagination. He has also provided many hours of pure joy, as that is what seeing his concerts provides: pure joy. No wine is needed, certainly nothing stronger. I literally feel euphoric after a Springsteen show—for days.
A lot of people have bashed Bruce the last few years, saying he is old and should just retire. I wish those people would retire their mouths. Seriously. I would feel sorry for them if they just didn’t make me so darn angry. Not liking Springsteen is the same as rooting against your hometown team, or hoping your puppy gets fleas. To all his naysayers, I just have one question: when you turn sixty, will you be creating anything new, or still exciting people when you perform your job? Though we don’t see eye-to-eye, I do hope you will find yourself at sixty full of creativity and energy, and performing your own work better than ever, which is what he is guilty of: getting even better, and beating his own benchmark.
Bruce Springsteen’s music has always been the story of a journey, but now that the man is turning sixty, I think what’s noteworthy is not just the music, but that he still does what he does with such enthusiasm and passion, and he’s still looking, as Wallace Stevens would say “for that act that will suffice.” We all grow old: some of us just do it better, with more vigor—and with a good song.
For nearly thirty-five years, I’ve been a fan of Bruce Springsteen’s music and performances. So much so that when I wrote a novel a few moons back, I managed to squeeze a nod to Bruce into the book. The protagonist is a big Bruce fan, and this is how his music affected her:
“I would lie on my bed with my headphones strapped around my head and listen to Born To run or Darkness on the Edge of Town. I’d think about how the whole world existed in motion around the earth, and so on. And out on a lonely highway, just like in Bruce’s song “The Promised Land,” some guy in a car was driving that “dusty road from Monroe to Angeline” and points beyond. It didn’t matter the destination; it was the getting away, the getting on, the going that counted.”
All these decades after Bruce released “The Promised Land” he’s still driving down that road, at least metaphorically. It’s not so dusty anymore. In fact, at age sixty, it’s looking pretty darn new.
Thanks for the ride, Boss. Let’s keep going.