“Ladies and Gentlemen . . . I’d like to introduce to you, right now, a young man. He was born in the U.S.A.! Arrived here tonight in his pink Cadillac! Winner of the Academy Award! He brought you such great hits as Dancing in the Dark, Born to Run, Hungry Heart! I’m talking about Mr. Badlands! The Jersey Devil, himself! The man who paid the cost to be the boss!” – Bruce Springsteen, Apollo Theater, New York, 9 March 2012
When you’re this big, you get to introduce yourself. I’m cheating a bit with this instalment of the Weekend Name Drop. Still, meet Bruce Springsteen.
Name: Bruce Springsteen
Creative fields: Musician, Song Writer, Author
Location: Monmouth County, New Jersey
Best known for: Nine-time Grammy Award winner (Dancing in the Dark, Tunnel of Love, Streets of Philadelphia, The Ghost of Tom Joad, The Rising, We Shall Overcome); Academy Award winner (Streets of Philadelphia); Two-time Golden Globe Award winner (Streets of Philadelphia, The Wrestler); member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; 2013 MusiCares Person of the Year;
My connection: OK, so I haven’t met Bruce, but I have seen him in concert three times and have been a huge fan for over thirty years! I am a child of the 80s, so my first exposure to him was through his songs and videos from Born in the U.S.A. I remember seeing cassette tapes for Born to Run, and The River at friends’ and relatives’ so I learned that he had been around awhile before then. I bought into the hype surrounding the release of his box set, Live 1975-85, which I purchased and still own. These cassettes were profound listening for me a decade later, after my son was born. My interest in Bruce was renewed when he reunited with the E Street Band in 1999, and especially with the release of The Rising in 2002. Seeing Bruce and the band play in Auckland in 2003 was a life-changing experience (I watched from just two rows in the front of the stage on Clarence Clemons’ side. Bruce and I made eye contact during Waitin’ on a Sunny Day!). Ten years later, I flew to Sydney, Australia just to see Bruce play, not knowing I would have the chance once again in Auckland in 2014.
Inspiration for this writer: Of all the creative people I’ve written about in the Weekend Name Drop, Bruce’s inspiration for me may be the most difficult to articulate. After all, why would a boy from Pictou County, Nova Scotia, now living in New Zealand, develop a deep appreciation (obsession?) for an American icon? With Born in the U.S.A., he was just another 80s pop star to me, alongside Prince, Madonna, Michael Jackson . . .. Listening to my uncle’s copy of The River enticed me to purchase Live 1975-85 and I grew to love his back catalogue. As a young husband and father, songs like Thunder Road and The River resonated with me in new ways and for a long time. Here was a poet and bard who understood the struggles of transitioning to adult concerns and balancing the heart’s desires with the practical demands of daily living. I found that same guiding voice here in New Zealand with The Rising and Devils and Dust and more recently in Wrecking Ball in which Bruce helped me clarify my perspective of political and economic dynamics. Looking back over his progression as an artist, it’s as if he’s always been just the right number of steps ahead of me, writing about things in life I’m about to encounter. Plus his music is bloody good fun and reminds me that most of life is about cherishing, working for, having fun with, and loving the ones closest to you.
Why you should check him out and share with others: Despite my adoration for Bruce’s music, I’m not the type of fan(atic) who collects all the merchandise or tries to evangelise others! However, I would like readers to know that Bruce Springsteen is far more than Born in the U.S.A. or Dancing in the Dark. My favourite album is now Darkness on the Edge of Town which has a starkness and depth to it that is unparalleled even in acoustic albums like Nebraska, The Ghost of Tom Joad, and Devils and Dust. I do believe that, at the heart of his mission, Bruce is a folk singer in that he sings for the people and of the people. The characters who populate his songs can relate to any one of our situations and allow us to see a wider view of what is going on in our lives and in the lives of our neighbours. Beyond the music, Bruce is now an important voice in politics and has an encyclopedic understanding of the history of pop, rock, soul and folk music. I highly recommend his new autobiography, Born to Run, which I have just finished reading. Unfortunately (and somewhat inexplicably), I won’t be able to see him play in Auckland next February – but if you can, you should!
Sample of work:
Here’s Bruce, himself, in my favourite live performance on YouTube, singing Promised Land in 1978:
UPDATE (9 February 2017): Listen as I share my favourite Springsteen album on Radio New Zealand’s Jesse Mulligan programme:
The Weekend Name Drop is a weekly feature on this blog, promoting people I have encountered who are doing creative things.