411 Music Hall Of Fame Class of 2010: Bruce Springsteen
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’S MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
How can I even hope to summarize the life of such a phenomenal artist? Everybody has different reasons for loving Bruce, so I am going to take you on a journey through my experiences with Springsteen. Album by album, track by track, note by note, Springsteen is Rock & Roll.
My journey does not begin with his original release, Greetings from Asbury Park, featuring the amazing “Blinded By The Light” which would become a major hit for Manfred Mann – all they had to do was swap deuce for douche. Bruce would later attribute the song’s success to that one change on “VH1 Storytellers”, however, to state such is simply denying the Boss’ amazing talent with lyrics. Drawing inspiration from those before him like Bob Dylan, Bruce showed just how amazing of a wordsmith he could be.
Nor does it begin with The Wild, the Innocent & the E-Street Shuffle, highlighted by the phenomenal “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)”.
My journey begins in grade 9 English class, with the hippest teacher I have ever known and the man single-handedly responsible for introducing me to Springsteen in all his poetic glory.
Born To Run. The greatest album of all time? If not, it better be in the Top 5. Kicking off with the phenomenal “Thunder Road”, this album captivated me as a young teen. I was blown away by the raging saxophone, the thunderous piano, the melancholy harmonica intro – all contributed to my complete amazement.
The most phenomenal lyrics I had ever heard sprung forth…highlighted by such amazing gems as, “Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night/You ain’t a beauty, but hey you’re alright/Oh and that’s alright with me”. This line always shines through as a huge part of Bruce’s draw. The ordinary is extraordinary. The sheer emotion throughout this track and its inevitable explosion into a remarkable saxophone solo had me hooked.
Of course, you can’t discuss the album without mentioning one of the greatest Rock & Roll songs of all time – the title track, “Born To Run”.
A song about raging hormones and uncontrollable adrenaline which spoke to my young self representing everything I wanted to do and everywhere I wanted to go. Springsteen speaks of restlessness and desire like no man before or after could ever hope to. The single most romantic lyric in the history of music sprung out of here, the verse which I will always hold closest:
“Wendy let me in I wanna be your friend
I want to guard your dreams and visions
Just wraps your legs ’round these velvet rims
And strap your hands across my engines
Together we could break this trap
We’ll run till we drop, baby we’ll never go back
Will you walk with me out on the wire?
‘Cause baby I’m just a scared and lonely rider
But I gotta know how it feels
I want to know if your love is wild
Girl I want to know if love is real”
The solo section pounds towards the climax with zest, fuelled by pubescent craving culminating in the final verse. I was hooked. I began my quest to hear everything the Boss had to offer.
Darkness on the Edge of Town, I listened to it start to finish. From the high of “Badlands” to the sheer emotion that is the title track, I continued my Springsteen odyssey.
The River, long and paradoxical. Nebraska, sparse, poetic and depressing. These took me to the sarcastic, overproduced and yet still so compelling Born in the U.S.A.
Channelling equal parts Woody Guthrie and Elvis, Springsteen burst forth into his calling as an American icon. This was Bruce’s real mainstream breakthrough and it shows in tracks like “Dancing in the Dark” and “Cover Me” which were a distinct departure from the sparse production and dark themes of Nebraska. It worked for the Boss, lifting him to new heights and allowing him to explore a much darker theme of failed love on his next album, Tunnel of Love.
Embracing the musical trends of the 80’s while still maintaining artistic credibility, Tunnel of Love was just another great album in a string of classics.
Next up came the double release of Human Touch and Lucky Town which even to the most hardcore fan had to seem disappointing, a rare misstep along the path of glory. However, the positive to come out of this was a return to roots, an indictment of middle American life and The Ghost of Tom Joad.
A return to the folk roots of Nebraska, this album and especially its title track re-affirmed the artistic strength of the Boss. Seven years later, he would begin a string of successive and successful albums which would cement his contemporary status into the new millennium.
Deeply moved by the September 11th terrorist attack, Springsteen put his thoughts to music and created his most uplifting compilation to date, The Rising. Containing such amazing tracks as “Lonesome Day” and the title track, this album is one of the Boss’ greatest successes. Two of the most moving tracks to me however, are “Paradise” and “Further On (Up the Road)”
“Paradise” takes the musical tone of Nebraska while taking the lyrical theme evident throughout The Rising and turning it on its head. A tragic song of loss, conveyed through Bruce’s amazing metaphorical comprehension. Only Springsteen could express such tragedy and loss so well.
The previous track almost foreshadows what is coming next, Devils & Dust. Dealing with desperation, loss and the human condition, this is clearly one of the most depressing albums you will ever listen to. Ever.
Next up came the folk experiment again, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. I will be first to admit that it wasn’t my thing, but was well received and when played live on the Live in Dublin album is pretty damn amazing.
Magic came next, and what magic it was, anchored by two tracks which were as anachronistic as they were phenomenal. “Radio Nowhere” and “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” led the album to some commercial success by employing typical rock archetypes and injecting a distinct Springsteen element. Once again, I found the greatest tracks lay below the surface in the memorial “Terry’s Song” and “I’ll Work For Your Love”.
The religious archetypes, the undying affection, the thunderous piano – this track makes it seem like 1975 all over again. This track could have been on Born to Run, but still has a distinct flair that illustrates an aging Bruce and his development. It’s not about raging hormones, but about dedication and love. This is middle-aged Bruce’s answer to “Thunder Road” and is the greatest song off of the album.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention his most recent work, Working on a Dream. We’ll see how this one stacks up in the years to come, but even a bad Bruce album still makes yearly Top 10 lists.
My journey through Springsteen’s catalogue was full of such rampant emotion and inspiration. A phenomenal artist who inherited the mantle of Rock’s poet laureate from Bob Dylan and ran with it, producing some of the greatest music the world has ever seen.
Why Bruce Springsteen Was Selected:
One of the most influential musicians of all time who has accrued more awards and accolades than can be reasonably comprehended deserves another. No list of most influential artists is complete without The Boss. No list of top albums or songs either. Bruce Springsteen is a living legend, a great American cultural icon whose mastery of the English language is surpassed only by his musical talent. Why Bruce Springsteen? He’s The Boss.