Monday, September 23, 2019

The Boss Hits 70: Celebrating Bruce Springsteen on His Birthday

Bruce Springsteen, my favorite musician of all-time by a wide margin--although I absolutely love the Beatles and have greater reverence for their importance--turns 70 today.

I myself am 50, and will turn 51 in just about 3 weeks, on October 15. 

Although there are several dates I can pinpoint in reference to the Boss--I bought Born in the U.S.A. (on cassette) on its day of release, June 4, 1984, first saw Bruce live with the E Street Band on July 17, 1984, last saw him with the band on September 1, 2016, saw Springsteen on Broadway on December 9, 2017 and met him (quite briefly) on November 28, 2016 at a promotional event for his Born to Run autobiography--I can't tell you exactly when I became a Springsteen fan.

My guess is sometime in the fall of 1980, after "Hungry Heart" became a hit single.

Without yet owning any of his four prior albums, I know I bought The River on LP--which came out October 17, 1980--but not immediately.

So presumably I became a Bruce Springsteen fan at age 12, and have loved him and his music ever since.

I can't recall if I knew the song "Born to Run" at that point, or had seen yet clips of Springsteen in concert (likely a few).

Unlike in the recent Blinded by the Light movie, there was no obvious demarcation moment--nor is there in Saffraz Manzoor's book on which it is based--but at some point when I was in 7th grade (1980-81), perhaps already in possession of The River there was this:

A class assignment instructed we visit someone doing a job we could imagine wanting to do. I visited disc jockey Terri Hemmert at WXRT Radio (where she's remained a staple until just this year).

I don't recall the exact context, but I remember Terri bantering with others (off air) about Springsteen, expressing admiration for this line from the song "Badlands":

"Poor man want to be rich / Rich man want to be king / And a king ain't satisfied till he rules everything"

That conversation, and those words, have always stuck with me.

I was too young to see Bruce when he played the Uptown Theatre or Rosemont Horizon on the original River Tour, but still recall a local Chicago sportscaster--Chuck Swirsky, who remains one--raving about how incredible Springsteen was live.

Click to enlarge
As I detailed here, in July 1984, while working a summer job as a messenger for a Chicago Loop law firm at the age of 15, I convinced my parents that spending $35--via a ticket broker--to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Rosemont Horizon was an important thing for me to do.

They even gave me a ride to the show.

And as you can see via the nearby graphic, I've now had the sheer pleasure of seeing The Boss onstage 50 times, most since 1999.

I'm hoping to increase that by at least five if he tours with the ESB next year, as rumored.

All told, I've seen over 800 rock concerts by various artists, including numerous shows by several of the all-time greats: The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, The Who, Bob Dylan, Robert Plant + Jimmy Page, AC/DC, Elton John, David Bowie, Billy Joel, Tom Petty, Bob Seger, U2, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Radiohead, Rush, Green Day, Arcade Fire and dozens of others.

I relish all of them.

But--and I say this with great respect for many others I love--as a live performer, there is Bruce Springsteen with the E Street Band, and then there is everyone else.

Clearly, I could prattle on about how my love of seeing Springsteen live has taken me to many places: New York/New Jersey, Cleveland, Columbus, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Detroit, Louisville, London, Washington DC, many repeatedly, leading to wonderful interactions with fellow fans and rewarding concurrent explorations.

I could delve deep and tell you how much the man and his music have meant to me, at the happiest and darkest of times.

When I share how I made it through a somewhat bully-ridden, unpopular, romance-less high school existence with reasonable aplomb, invariably I say that in lieu of going to parties, I would stay home, read a book and listen to Springsteen...and it would be more than enough to get me by.

It's been ages since I've seen the same movie twice in a movie theater in the same year, but I did so with Blinded by the Light. I loved it because of Javed's (the main character) love of Springsteen and all the music that was therefore featured, but wasn't overwhelmed by it simply as a movie (it was a tad too obvious).

Still, when I first saw the trailer it brought tears to my eyes, because the connection Javed has with Springsteen songs and lyrics that would change his life, well, I've had that.

But I could write another 5,000 words and they all would be driving home the same point: My existence has been forever immeasurably enriched by being a Bruce Springsteen fan.

His music, his integrity, his incredible concerts, his politicism, his sense of decency and honor, his candor about his struggles with depression, his smile and spirit after 3-1/2 hours onstage, his continued exploration of new musical directions and perhaps most of all, my belief that no one does what they do better than he does what he does, with an ever-abiding exuberance and passion and gusto and joy.

He's not just the Boss, he's the Best.

So Happy Birthday #70, Bruce Springsteen.

I'm thankful you were born and will be alongside for as long as you continue to run.

Or I do.

It was really hard whittling down to my 20 favorite Springsteen songs, which could change daily. But with apologies to "Atlantic City," here's a Spotify playlist ordered from #1 to 20: 

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