In light of E Street band member Danny Federici’s recent death, it is only prudent to highlight the ever-fading relevance of Bruce Springsteen.
For many Americans like me, The Boss brings to mind a rush of vignettes: hot dogs on the barbecue, the Jersey shore, a mug of lukewarm beer, faded cutoff jean shorts, a pack of cigarettes rolled up in your T-shirt sleeve, driving a car with the windows down, an American flag bandana.
But for many others even more cynical than I, the mere mention of Springsteen and his music elicits sarcastic eye rolls. In writing here in the past, I’ve discussed my hesitant love for ABBA, which since then has developed into a full-blown passion without any sarcasm. As I age, I feel the same genuine emotion growing for many other things I should be embarrassed of in order to save my hipster cred.
Being honestly into Springsteen is unfashionable. Even his bond with indie darlings the Arcade Fire could not remedy the instantaneous repulsion that so many children of the ’80s have. Though I’ve heard it countless times since a young age, I have only recently decided “Born to Run” is one of the greatest rock songs ever recorded.
Although “Born to Run” sounds like a bar anthem at first listen, its lyrics become more potent after a few more listens over a pint. The entire song’s lyrics are amazing, but the last two minutes are the most powerful, following a raging horn, when Bruce’s voice strains, serious and genuine: “Beyond the Palace hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard/The girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors/And the boys try to look so hard/The amusement park rises bold and stark/Kids are huddled on the beach in a mist/I wanna die with you, Wendy, on the streets tonight/In an everlasting kiss.”
Everyone around him is still enjoying youth, working on impressing one another for a fleeting sexual encounter. Bruce, though — Bruce wants more, and sees the power Wendy holds, melting away police sirens with her embrace. Bruce continues after another brassy blast, clanking piano, exploding symphony: “The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive/Everybody’s out on the run tonight/But there’s no place left to hide/Together, Wendy, we’ll live with the sadness/I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul/Someday, girl, I don’t know when/We’re gonna get to that place/Where we really want to go/And we’ll walk in the sun/But till then tramps like us/Baby, we were born to run.”
Maybe becoming an adult is really the reason why Bruce speaks to me. After I leave here, I don’t want to strap on my sensible heels and march into my cubicle. I want to grab a lover and run to a place that may only exist in my imagination.