I remember the day rock and roll began for me. It was on a Thursday night in August of 1985. Bruce Springsteen and the East Street Band were in the midst of the Born in the USA tour. I was part of the 50,000 plus fans who sang along to each song and listened raptly as Bruce went into one of his stories.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, Bruce is a story teller, and it doesn’t end with the songs. Periodically, he’ll tell a story with some musical accompaniment playing softly in the background that will lead into the next song.
One such story he told that warm August night has remained with me, and it’s particularly pertinent today. You see our rock n roll hero was telling us how old he was and that he was losing it. We were not having it and let Bruce know we disagreed with his assessment. However, he longed for his ‘Glory Days,’ and that’s just what he gave us.
You know how old Bruce was? He was 35, soon to be 36. And now he is 65.
Bruce Springsteen, my rock n roll hero is 65 freaken years old. This is the man who Jon Landau, then an influential music critic, saw in May of 1974 in Boston. In his review, Landau said, “I saw rock and roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”
That guy – rock and roll’s future – is 65 freaken years old. Isn’t rock and roll youth and rebellion? Now Bruce may have been born to run but now is closer to moving to Florida, eating dinner at 4 p.m., and needing a comb over.
Yet on Bruce’s last tour which ended earlier this year, his concerts regularly went 3 plus hours. He also put out an album earlier this year – High Hopes – which was number one on the billboard charts. Does this does sound like the actions of a typical 65-year old? I’m going out on a limb here and guessing he has no plans to retire and live off of social security any time soon.
This man has music to make, concerts to perform, and fans to entertain.
And this fan is thrilled! You see while Bruce is no longer young and I am closer to having a teenager than being one, hearing his music still affects me. As part of Jon Landau’s review noted earlier, he said, “he [Springsteen] made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time.”
That’s exactly how I felt on that night in August of 1985 at Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium. A question rang in my ears as I exited the stadium with my friends and headed to the El Train to take me back to Frankford Station. “What have I just seen?” While on the train, I overheard a conversation two women were having. A friend of theirs had left because she did not enjoy the concert. What? I wanted to find the women, shake her and ask, “Don’t you realize what this man just did? He left his heart on the stage.”
The passion that infused Bruce was contagious. And I imbibed it. Bruce Springsteen’s music became my passionate. I didn’t want to listen to Bruce’s work. I had to. I craved everything Springsteen. I studied the lyrics while listened to the songs over and over. In time, I could sing the songs and pause where he paused. I could repeat the stories word for word even knowing inflection points and uhhs.
I listened to Bruce through high school. I listened in college. I listened in my 20’s. His music was a topic of conversation on the first date my wife and I had. One of his songs (If I Should Fall Behind) was the first one my wife and I danced to at our wedding. I listened to him with my boys when they were still willing to listen to ‘my music.’
And I listen to Bruce’s music now. While I don’t jump and down, crank it up, and scream at the top of my lungs when I hear a Springsteen song on the radio like I once did, I still enjoy his music, and it makes me happy. When I hear For You, or Sandy, or Thunder Road, or Candy’s Room, or The River, or No Surrender, or My Beautiful Reward, or You’re Missing, or Long Walk Home, or many many others, it’s as if an old friend has returned, and we are reminiscing about what we’ve been through.
For this, I thank Bruce Springsteen. So, he may not exactly be the future of rock and roll, but I’ll take him every time for his glorious past and for his music that very well may be yet to come.
Happy Birthday Bruce. May you continue to rock for many years to come.