"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Friday, September 23, 2011

Birthdays-The Boss! (Guest written)

As any inane "celebrity birthdays" section in a newspaper or a blog will tell you, today is the birthday of rock legend Bruce Springsteen, our personal idol here at "The Regular Guy Believes". The Boss has had some fun birthdays-on September 23, 1978, a giant cake was sent up to the stage for a Passaic, NJ concert-a bikini-clad blonde emerged, she and Bruce disappeared behind the stage and were not seen again that night. One year later, for Bruce's 30th birthday, he was far less jovial, and when another, smaller cake was brought upstage, he heaved it into the crowd (somewhat jokingly, probably) and growled, "Send me the cleaning bill". And now...he's hosting an hourlong special on a satellite radio station dedicated to him. No concerts, no cake, no backstage beast with two backs.

So what happened?

Bruce turns 62 today, and it's time to face facts, if we hadn't already done that on 1995's "The Ghost of Tom Joad" with "melodies so listless that you wonder why he didn't make a spoken word record"--the Boss is getting old. He's not yet frail, but his voice is going, going, gone-he can no longer soar above the blistering arrangement on "Badlands" or tear open the evening air in the epic verses of "Thunder Road". Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons are already gone (sniff), and Max looked like he was about to keel over while pounding on a big-band rendition of "Ramrod" that rocked so hard that even Bruce would be proud.

So I have come to the sad conclusion that I don't think he will tour again, mostly because I don't think he wants to do this without the Big Man. Watching the Hammersmith Odeon concert in 1975, he always seems happiest when he's doin' stuff with Clarence. If he doesn't tour or make records again, we are left to wonder, what will be the legacy of Bruce Springsteen?

Musicians are always more legendary after they're gone. Springsteen is already a legend, but when he's gone (knock on wood) I think he will be remembered as quite possibly the best ever.

Let's look at why: Springsteen has had a longer career than any other frontline rocker. Between 1973's "Greetings from Asbury Park" and 2009's "Working on a Dream", Springsteen's career has spanned 37 years. He is the most prolific rock songwriter ever, with a massive wealth of released and unreleased material. He is consistent--unlike Bob Dylan, Springsteen's valley only really spanned 2 albums, the simultaneously released Lucky Town and especially the spectacularly, catastrophically bad Human Touch.

Springsteen revolutionized the world of music in 1975 with the epic "Born to Run". He set a new standard in pop and rock music with the melodic, grandiose songs, a new expectation for dramatic storytelling in folk, and created one of the finest expressions of good old rock and roll ever with the opening chords of the title track. But his ballads, as on "Darkness", were revolutionary as well. No one had sung with such passion and aggression, yet with elegance and beauty as well. The Boss had fused pop-romance with the lure and threat of the night and the open summer road to create a true American epic.

Bruce became an absolute superstar with 1984's "Born in the U.S.A.". Springsteen mirrored the ambition of his early albums while retaining the toughness and strength of voice that emerged on Nebraska, and reflecting a wide pallette of life as he did on "The River". "Tunnel of Love" examined romance in a way he had not yet done, "Greetings" and "The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle" celebrated the fury and vigor of Jersey youth, "The Rising" examined closely feelings of faith and redemption, "Devils and Dust" studied doubt and disbelief.

His live shows, though, really define him, and that's what Bruce is all about. He performs with so much passion and energy. He gives it absolutely everything he's got, every song. And the E Street Band has proved to me that they are perhaps the finest American rock and roll group ever assembled. Live 1975/85 may have been watered down with songs such as "This Land is Your Land", but the Hammersmith Odeon was perhaps the most wonderfully exuberant performance I've ever heard. And that's still true today.

Springsteen shows us, again and again, with his passion, commitment, and sheer songwriting mastery, that "it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive".

Happy Birthday, Boss!

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