There are days when I have no idea what I am going to write about. And, today was one of those days. So, I got to thinking about my seven favorite artists to determine who I have yet to write about. So, as I took stock, I realized that I had written about Cheap Trick and Prince, R.E.M. and Talking Heads, Tom Petty and Daryl Hall and John Oates, but I had yet to write about a man called “The Boss”, Bruce Springsteen.
Now, if you were expecting me to write about his output from his debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. up to an including Tunnel of Love. I feel like that area of his during which he was chasing the golden ring of rock immortality and actually attaining it has been run into the ground. It is an era of his that I still hold dear to my heart. I mean, who doesn’t love the romanticism of his “Rosalita” and Born to Run period? Or, how about his punk-influenced days of Darkness on the Edge of Town? Or, what about the frat-rock sound of The River? Or, even the stark folkie turn of Nebraska? And, few who came of age during the mid-80s were not inspire by the grandeur of Born to Run. And, finally, who wasn’t moved by the sound of a marriage falling apart during Tunnel of Love.
Then the Nineties rolled in, and Springsteen retreated from his E Street Band, and released two albums of lackluster music with session musicians. And, then he kind of followed up the brilliant Nebraska album with another folkie turn called The Ghost of Tom Joad. The Boss seemed like he did not know what to do next, so he release an underwhelming Greatest Hits album. Then, unexpectedly, in time for his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he summoned his original backing band of street-wise musical aces and performed several shows at Madison Square Garden that was documented on his second live album.
So, as the new millennium opened, Springsteen and the E Street Band were finally back together, trying to make some sense of what happened on 9/11/2001, by releasing the meditative album The River. Surprisingly, what that did was open up Springsteen to his most creative run ever. Early on, Springsteen was a studio perfectionist. Now, as an elder statesman of rock music, “The Boss” had learned to write and work more quickly than he ever has. This albums are not the anthemic monsters of his initial era. But, the 21st century Boss has been delightful with a maturity and contentment that has never before been present in his music before. Many people do not enjoy his new stuff, yet I find my adult self enjoying the new music in. a much different manner.
His We Shall Overcome album reminded me of The Band. Magic was a pissed off uncle complaining about the changing face of society, sad in the failure of his generation not leading society to true progress. I love Working on a Dream as it sounds mostly like it was written for grandchildren (“Outlaw Pete”), although he has written a song about how adults react to each other as a couple who are in life together for the long run (“Queen of the Supermarket”). Finally, his last two studio albums have been about our purpose within a society in order to make it better. Those albums (Wrecking Ball and High Hopes), lay down clues in the lyrics as how to treat others in our communities (“We Take Care of Our Own” on Wrecking Ball) along with how to maintain our sense of purpose from our youthful idealism (“The Ghost of Tom Joad”, which has guitarist Tom Morrello of Rage Against The Machine on this version, that can be found on High Hopes).
Throughout Bruce Springsteen’s career, his music has been totally full of hope, even in his most desperate times, like on Nebraska, The Ghost of Tom Joad and Devil and Dust. His optimism will never wane, even in his darkest hours. We has always valued his family and friends, even replacing fallen members (Danny Federicci and Clarence “The Big Man” Clemmons) with blood relatives. He must bring out the best in each musician since they all stick around, even as he adds more members to his band. And, if you ever get the opportunity to see him play live, take that opportunity! Jill and I saw him in 1985 at the old Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis. I could have cared less that the concert was in such a large venue because that band made the concert seem so intimate.
That is Springsteen’s genius. His music seems to be has been created to comfort the listener. And, he is still comfortable letting us hang out with him as we listen to his music. Personally, I have grown up with him, from the first time I heard “Born to Run” in the days leading up to Christmas in 1975 to today. Thank you Bruce Springsteen for enriching my life with your music.