There’s no way I could have a blog site and not include a post about Bruce Springsteen. Given that his autobiography, Born to Run, is being released September 27, I thought it was fitting to publish this post.
I’ve connected with The Boss’ music for over forty years. It’s hard to explain what his music does for me. One way to describe it is to quote a line I often say, “There’s only two types of music: Bruce Springsteen and everything else”.
There’s not a lot of music that moves me the way his does, at least not on a consistent basis. Usually if I find an artist I like, I generally tire of what they have to offer, or they stop producing. I’ve been around for a long time and there have been various artists I’ve liked over the years, such as The Beatles, Rush, Bruce Cockburn, Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp, Eddie Vedder, Leonard Cohen, and Sufjan Stevens to name just a few. Eventually I settle back into Springsteen because he’s the only artist whose music consistently resonates with my soul.
It’s his voice, the lyrics, the beat, the music.
I was first turned on to Springsteen in 1975 with his Born to Run album (see image above). Then came Darkness on the Edge of Town in 1978, but the final hook for me was The River in 1980. The music from The River flowed through every core of my being. The song The River is still my favourite Springsteen song, at least from an emotional connection perspective. If I had to pick a favourite album from his 18 studio albums and total of 27 albums including the live albums that contain lots of original music too, it would likely have to be The Rising from 2002.
I’ve always been moved by the Christian theme lyrics that run through every single Springsteen album, not every song, but definitely every album. Author Jeffrey Symynkywicz also thinks so, he wrote a book about it. His book The Gospel According to Springsteen: From Rock to Redemption takes a closer look at the Christian themes that run through Springsteen’s music. We find chapter titles like Creating Community, Seeking Justice, Facing Sin and Evil, and From Good Friday to Easter.
Music has the ability and power to move us viscerally in a manner that seems unexplainable at times. The right song at the right moment can connect with something deep inside us that we just can’t seem to verbalize ourselves.
For me Springsteen’s the only recording artist that connects with what’s at the core of my soul.
I remember being moved by the lyrics in songs like It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City from his first album which came out in 1973, with lines like “The cripple on the corner cries out ‘Nickels for your pity’. Them gasoline boys downtown sure talk gritty. It’s so hard to be a saint in the city.” Sure these lyrics don’t likely seem like much to you, but to me they resonated with where I was at when I first heard them as a sixteen year old in 1975. The song impacted me not just because of the way he sang the words “Nickels for your Pity” but also because of the way that line reminded me of the beggars I was seeing on the streets of Hamilton at the time, a time when I was struggling with how I should respond to the poverty around me.
And there are lyrics like I find in his 1978 song Badlands. “I believe in the faith that could save me, I believe in the hope, and I pray that someday it may raise me above these badlands.” And “I wear the cross of my calling.” from his song The Rising. I could go on and on with more lyrics that connect with my soul, but I won’t do that to you.
I’ve seen Springsteen live many times. I’ve taken my sons to his concerts. When they were in their mother’s womb I played his music through headphones on her belly. It’s no surprise they’re Springsteen fans (the picture above is my son, Phil, doing an homage to Springsteen). The Boss’s concert are packed with an energy that’s rare to find. There’s a reason his concerts have been so popular for close to half a century. They easily average three to three and half hours, and often reach the four-hour mark. If you haven’t been to one, go. Now. Get your ticket.
There. I’ve said my peace. I’ve tried to share the light. I hope you haven’t been blinded.