A new movie highlights how the rock legend inspired a teenager to pursue his dreams, reminding me of everything I love about Springsteen’s music.
When I was single, I once accepted a date with a man I knew I wasn’t really interested in. This was clearly not my finest moment, but many readers may offer absolution when I explain that he had tickets to a Bruce Springsteen concert. He was a music producer and in possession of very expensive, enviable seats, the likes of which I would never sit in again. I wrestled my conscience to the ground in about two seconds. No way would I miss this opportunity to see “the Boss” in concert for the first time.
Springsteen and his incomparable E Street Band played with electrifying abandon. Thousands of us danced and sang along with Bruce during “Born to Run,” “Thunder Road,” “The River” and other hits. I’ll never forget the thrill of that evening, and the high that lingered through the following days.
The themes of a lot of Springsteen songs were in many ways distant from my reality. I didn’t grow up in an economically struggling town. I didn’t know anyone who worked on the highway, blasting through the bedrock, and I really had no ambition to drive a pink Cadillac, or drag race on the streets. Some songs were laced with an undercurrent of anger or anxiety; others were about dreams delayed or even deflated. Yet the songs were also shot through with irrepressible youthful energy, eagerness for romance, and a no-holds-barred determination to fulfill one’s dreams wherever they took you, once you escaped the “darkness at the edge of town.”
Almost all young people dream of transcending the limitations of their upbringing, and I was no different. I also had dreams of my own and was resolutely determined to achieve them. I also longed to find the comfort of lasting love. Who among us didn’t have a “hungry heart” when we were young? In this way, Springsteen’s songs and their universal appeal spoke to me as well.
In the decades since I attended that incredible concert, I’ve remained a big fan of that young artist who put Asbury Park, New Jersey on the map. I also became a huge fan of “the Big Man,” saxophone player Clarence Clemons, who was a member of the E Street Band from its inception in 1972 until his passing in 2011. Through an act of sheer chutzpah, I also once wrangled an interview with Clemons for a rather shady magazine, despite my having zero credentials writing about the music scene. This, too, was exciting, bringing me close to a source of much musical joy.