The Boss inspires me to tell stories
As a student and practitioner of language, I claim a modest level of expertise on the subject. I wield this expertise in judgment of other’s use of it. My verdict is that Bruce Springsteen is not only America’s greatest ever songwriter, he is also one of its greatest poets.
One would think that he is the lovechild of Kerouac and Plath. He is not. In fact he is the son of a bus driver in eastern New Jersey.
“One soft infested summer me and Terry became friends,” he wrote. He didn’t care about making some great social statement or deep philosophical sage. He instead finds beauty in the ordinary and tells stories like an old friend at a campfire, who talks compellingly of exotic places and adventures. Only the places that Bruce sings about are the alleyways and avenues of a city.
Like the ekphrastic retelling of Corsigan Boyle’s Greasy Lake, or the ‘best laid plans’ ballad, Meeting Across the River; his themes are of mistakes and heartache being a part of youth. He absolves us all of our childhood sins by celebrating the honor of mediocrity. His works serve as an owner’s manual for teenagers — a ‘how-to guide’ for growing up.
“The midnight gangs assembled, and picked a rendezvous for the night. They’ll meet ‘neath that giant EXXON sign that brings this fair city light. There’s an opera out on the turnpike and a ballet being fought out in the alley.” He doesn’t care about being clever, or nimble, or eloquent. But he is all of those things innately. He is an introvert who is begrudgingly forced into extroversion whose brilliance is too big to contain within the shy spirit that holds it. His voice demands an audience and the audience demands his voice.
When he burst onto the scene in the early 70s, noted music critic Jon Landau penned the now famous line, “I have seen the future of rock n roll, and his name is Bruce Springsteen.” Landau provided dry timber to an existing fire, helping it spread across America like a rumor. But Bruce wanted only to write songs and remain impervious to comparison and the pejorative effects of stardom.
He seems blithely unaware of his own influence over people and culture. He inspires me because I find a kinship in our roles in society.
He is the preeminent narrator for an entire generation and I, as a journalist, am also a narrator of sorts — albeit in the minor leagues. I am a simple scribe, chronicling society’s events. He is The Boss, affecting events.