“So you’re scared and you’re thinkin’ that maybe we ain’t that young anymore.”
You know these words. You’ve heard them more than a billion times. They’re seared into your brain at this point, like a mantra.
Today is Bruce Springsteen’s 60th birthday.
Yes, you read that right.
How can that be possible?
For nearly as long as I can remember, this man has provided so many of us with the guidelines and narratives of our lives – stories about those who get stepped on and beaten up by society (“Born In The USA,” “Atlantic City”), lessons about how to get through it all with grit and determination (“Badlands”), lamentations about life and loss (“The Rising”), the pain of love gone bad (“I’m Goin’ Down”), the perils of temptation (“I’m On Fire,” “Brilliant Disguise”), the price of familial dilemmas and moral responsibility (“Highway Patrolman,” The River,” “Independence Day”), the revelry of youth (“Spirit In The Night”) and the crippling fear of death (“Cadillac Ranch”), and the fading promise of America (“The Promised Land,” “City Of Ruins, “My Hometown”).
He might be just a rocker, a pop star, a media cultural image, but in so many ways, his ideas, thoughts, poetry and philosophies have impacted the way many of us look at life. For many, he’s been there every step of the way on our own journeys, as maudlin as that might sound, like a good rebbe. Even if we’re not all working-class kids from Jersey, he provided the soundtrack of our lives.
I remember years ago writing about my old high school classmate, Steven Oken, who was eventually executed by the State of Maryland for murdering three women. I must’ve played “Nebraska” a thousand times while putting that one together.
I doubt there’s any occasion for which a Springsteen song wouldn’t work. Even when you know someone on Death Row.
I also recall a friend who was going through some tough times with his marriage and his job. “You know,” he said, “sometimes when I get home from work, at 2 or 3 in the morning, feeling wiped out and lonely and really frustrated, I go over to the VCR and pop in Bruce’s `Live In New York’ video, and I always feel better.”
I knew exactly what he meant.
With all due respect to Mr. Dylan, Mr. Lennon and others, no one else has ever written songs like Springsteen with that kind of empathy and conscience, songs that touched people of my generation so profoundly and directly. And no one has ever performed with that kind of commitment, energy, intensity and dedication, before or since.
So I say to all of my fellow Springsteen fans out there, let’s raise a beer and say, “Happy birthday, Bruce, yom huledet samayach, and thanks for everything.”
Sixty. How did that happen?
Show a little faith.