There is one Bruce Springsteen and there will never be another one like him.
No performer exhibits their love of performing, the love for his fans and the love of his craft like Bruce. He is the messiah of Rock n Roll, the Boss, the cool rocking daddy, the minister of the arena, the pastor of the stadiums, the Pope of Asbury Park, the wrestler, the man dancing in the dark and the dude in the front seat beneath the dirty hood.
He was Born to Run and Born in the USA; he lived underneath that giant Exxon sign by the Darkness on The Edge of Town. He stood up on the banks of The River, brushed the memories from his pants and took his brother’s car back home. He stumbled and got lost in the Tunnel of Love only to be saved by a “Red headed woman.”
The first time I heard of Bruce was in the fall of 1980. My friend Nathan was a die-hard fan and kept telling me to listen to him. At first I thought Springsteen was another Jew from Brooklyn. Then I placed my brother’s Born to Run record on the turntable, sat down and heard the opening sounds of a harmonica…
“The screen door slams…Mary’s dress waves…Seem like the whole world walking pretty
And you can’t find the room to move…And the world is busting at its seams
And you’re just a prisoner of your dreams…Laying here in the dark you’re like an angel on my chest just another tramp of hearts crying tears of faithlessness, The highway’s jammed with broken heroes, on a last chance power drive…And tonight you’ll try just one more time, To leave it all behind and to break on through…And remember, just don’t smile, Change your shirt, ’cause tonight we got style…Tonight, in, Jungleland…”
I sat there and I felt the rush of falling in love, of hitting the game winning home run, the first touch of her lips. I listened to the songs over and over again; I had found a new voice who was singing just for me…The broken hearts, the need to run, to escape from the confines of a home not of our choosing. To escape from a town where the odds seemed to always be stacked against us.
I listened to it over and over again – closed my eyes to, “Jungleland”, and felt Clarence Clemons’ heart pounding as the soft summer rain came floating down. The neighborhood gangs all posing for each other or perhaps for themselves. The operas, the ballets, the sitting on the car drinking warm beer watching it all unfold…
I listened to these songs, over and over again. Music had always been a part of my heart and soul; before this there was Elton John, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Billy Joel, the Beatles…but when I listened to Bruce Springsteen I felt a sense of freedom. I felt that it was alright to express yourself without having the poetry of Dylan. To express yourself by spitting it out there for the world to hear. The dream of finding the girl who may not be “The One,” but is the one; having her jump into your beat up Chevy and heading to where the “Highway is alive” to “wash the sands off of our hands.” The sins of allowing ourselves to be caught and imprisoned in a reality built by walking dead figurines. By the ones who need to numb themselves to get through another day – beat up their wives and kids to find the manhood they had taken away.
Listening to Bruce I lost my virginity; I lost my sense of blind trust and I questioned everything from God to the existence of life on Mars.
Listening to Bruce I gained a want for women that has never left me. Wendy, Mary, Sherry Darling…Rosalita! He would match the names with scenes that thrust sexuality straight into your libido…steroids for a 14 year old listening to him sing.
Even now I when I hear those words I can feel the beat of her breathing and I pull her closer…trying to remind her that there was once a love there. That “A dream is not a lie if it doesn’t come true…”
So many of his songs are infused with a sexual energy and a love for them “Soft thrills in our little fun house.” The fast heart beat of someone running, engaged in a sexual activity, pulsating engines roaring down the East Street road as the Mansion on the Hill sparkles in the distance.
Bruce went through a divorce the same time that I did. We both expressed dismay of a world where love is gone, gone.
I knew some day your runnin’ would be through
And you’d think back on me and you
And your love would be strong
You’d forget all the bad and think only of all the laughs that we had
And you’d wanna come home
Now it ain’t hard feelings or nothin’ sugar
That ain’t what’s got me singing this song
It’s just nobody knows baby where love goes
But when it goes it’s gone gone
Bruce, the boss, the love potion serving, tenderer of libido increasing heart racing love potion numbers 1-99; the greatest performer since Al Jolson…was broken. But, “hell a little touch up and a little paint…”
Bruce became a father the same year that I became a father. When he released the album, “Lucky Town,” there was one song that stood out for me.
Well now on a summer night in a dusky room
Come a little piece of the Lord’s undying light
Crying like he swallowed the fiery moon
In his mother’s arms it was all the beauty I could take
Like the missing words to some prayer that I could never make
In a world so hard and dirty so fouled and confused
Searching for a little bit of God’s mercy
I found living proof.
It was a perfect soundtrack to where I was at. It was a time of my life when I had my second child and my wife at the time became disinterested in what we had once agreed to.
Divorce was painful – rejection, questioning of everything you once felt so sure of only to be knocked down by the ones you were closest with. Betrayal feels like a ghost has come and taken out every organ in your body and replaced them with boiling acid. The brain is broken along with your heart, ego and every other part of you that was once caressed.
I wanted to run; I wanted to hide…but then I heard the sounds of my children (Crying like he swallowed the fiery moon) and I knew that they represented a form of renewal, healing, love and that I was responsible for nurturing. So I did not retreat from them; I stood up and I found my reason for living. I looked within and found an inner strength that I never could have found. (Like the missing words to some prayer that I could never make) My living proof that there is a higher form of power and that no matter where I ended up – things would be all right for me as long as I kept to my word of unconditional love. (In a world so hard and dirty so fouled and confused, Searching for a little bit of God’s mercy…I found living proof).
September 11 – Bruce told of driving up to Sandy Hook where he once used to see a clear view of Manhattan’s skyline. All he saw now was an Empty Sky and the sacrificial smoke of the ones who were slaughtered for another one’s idea of God.
The album, ironically entitled, “The Rising,” told the stories of the lives destroyed on that day. But instead of calling it something like, “The Fallen,” he named it “The Rising,” which gave a hopeful tone which said, “We shall overcome.” While also singing words that break my heart when I hear them.
Bruce’s music continues to be a healer – although I am not tethered to his political viewpoints I can understand his feelings at times. He preaches sometimes about his opinions as do a lot of musicians and performers. But there is no one quite like him after 50 years on stage. He takes requests from the audience during concerts. In 2013, he was asked to perform a song called, “Never can tell.” Bruce and the East Street Band hadn’t performed it in a long time, apparently. And in a confirmation of why he is the messiah of Rock n Roll, the Boss, the cool rocking daddy, the minister of the arena, the pastor of the stadiums, the Pope of Asbury Park, the wrestler, the man dancing in the dark and the dude in the front seat beneath the dirty hood – check out this video.