Blown Away By Bruce Again
I remember being a little worried in February 2012 when SXSW Music confirmed Bruce Springsteen to serve as its keynote speaker. Worried because I was skeptical that the energy, passion and excitement of his concerts could transcend to the format of an hour-long solo speech.
My fears were completely wrong as the Boss delivered one of the best keynotes we’ve ever had at the event. Wrote NPR: “Springsteen made corny jokes, played a little music on an acoustic guitar and showed remarkable humility, saying he thought of himself as ‘an average guy with a slightly above average gift.’ People were crying in their seats, and I’ll bet every audience member walked away inking her own favorite moment into her memory . . . Many are calling Springsteen’s talk a pocket history of rock music, comparing it to the best orations given at the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions.”
Click here to watch the full video of that incredible presentation.
More recently, I had somewhat of the same January 2012 apprehensions when it was announced that Bruce was penning an autobiography that would recap his youth as well as his multi-decade musical career. Indeed, the 520-page tome “Born to Run” was released on September 27 — and I received a gift copy of the book from my sister a few days later.
Once again, my concerns about his cross-platform artistry were wildly misplaced. “Born to Run” is another amazing gift from a man whose voice chronicles the essence of the American experience. I’ve still got about half of the book to read — my pace on this one is intentionally slow so that I can try to reflect on all that he has to say about growing up and achieving success (and the richness with which he says it). One of my favorite passages happens a few chapters in when the author recalls how his mother would send him to the bars of Freehold, New Jersey in hopes that the young boy could persuade his father to come back home:
“I stood waist-high to them at best, so when I entered the barroom I felt like a Jack who’d climbs some dark beanstalk, ending up in a land of familiar but frightening giants. On the left, lining the wall, lay a row of booths filled with secret assignations, barroom lovers, and husband-and-wife tag-team drinkers. On the right were stools filled by a barricade of broad working-class backs, rolling-thunder murmuring, clinking glasses, unsettling adult laughter and very, very few women. I’d stand there, drinking in the dim smell of beer, booze, blues and aftershave; nothing in the outer world of home remotely like it. Schlitz and Pabst Blue Ribbon ruled, with the blue ribbon stamped on the bartender’s pouring spout as the golden elixir was slid expertly into titled glasses that were then set with a hard knock on the wooden bar. There I stood, a small spirit reminder of what a lot of these men were spending a few moments trying to forget — work, responsibility, the family, the blessings and burdens of adult life. Looking back, it was a mix of mostly average guys who simply needed to let off a little steam at the end of the week and a few others, moved by harder things, who didn’t know where to draw the line.”
Wow — just wow.
And, even more wow with this week’s announcement that Bruce will narrate the audio version of this book that is set for a December 6 release.
Given his response to 9/11, I expect that Springsteen will not be silent about the new administration. As much as I’m pessimistic about the incoming president, I look forward to hearing the creative reaction from Bruce and other similar artistic masters.