Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Born Down in a Dead Man's Town

Today is Bruce Springsteen's 65th birthday, so it only seems appropriate to reflect (again) on what his music means to me and how it has influenced my life. As far a musical tastes go, mine are not particularly hip or eclectic. I enjoy classic rock, a bit of folk, and some show tunes for good measure. I know what I like and I like it entirely un-ironically. Inasmuch, I abuse the ability to hit repeat and will happily listen to the same song on loop for hours. 

Not only is the Boss my favorite musician of all time, he is also my go-to listen for nearly every situation, nearly every feeling. His repertoire is a musical medicine cabinet of sorts; healer of all that ails you. I've written before about how nearly every major milestone in my twenties has been marked by a Springsteen song or album. To this day, I am immediately taken back to memories of summers of newly-discovered independence, my college graduation, or my wedding day with the opening riffs of the Greetings from Asbury Park and Born to Run albums. I often rank seeing the Boss play Wrigley Field as the best day of my life. However, while I will always love and appreciate Bruce for the big moments, it's his music filling the quiet between the milestones that I will always treasure. 

After my leap into unemployment (and uncertainty) last year, I turned to the Born in the U.S.A album for comfort. Although it had never been one of my favorites, over the course of those insecure few months it filled me with feelings of rejuvenation and optimism. Born in the U.S.A tells a story of getting knocked down and picking yourself back up again, because that's the only option. In many ways, it's also a love story. But its pervasive story is that of a hopeful new beginning. When I felt like I had "nowhere to run, nowhere to go," once again the music of the Boss carried me home. 

It's that promise of hope that brings me back to his music again and again. When I need a song that's guaranteed to put a smile on my face, I turn to "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)". When I'm feeling lost, I turn to "Hungry Heart." When I'm hurting, I turn to "City of Ruins." In a musical homage to The Band's "The Weight" (my extreme love for that song deserves a post of its own), "City of Ruins" weaves a story of loss with the ever-hopeful chorus giving a glimpse of the beauty that will rise from the ashes. "Come on, rise up..."

In these moments of joy and happiness, pain and sorrow, I find myself automatically reaching for this music. By way of his words, his music, and his voice, the Boss has been there in every moment to celebrate and to mourn, to encourage or to just give a reason to turn up the radio and sing along. There's rarely an occasion that a little Bruce won't make better.

And so on this day, along with my birthday wishes, I want to also say thank you to the Boss. For writing what has become the soundtrack of my twenties. For being an enduring symbol of the strength of the underdog. For being a constant reminder that hope is everywhere, and for teaching us where to look. 

She found out how to cope
She rides to heaven on a gyroscope
The Daily News asked her for the dope
She said, "Man, the dope's that there's still hope.

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