Author: Dean DeChiaro
On Monday, it was announced on his official Web site that on Jan. 27, Bruce Springsteen will release a new album, titled Working on a Dream. It’s the Boss’ second consecutive studio album with the E Street Band, and it’s going to be awesome for one reason: It’s Springsteen. And Springsteen is perfect.
Growing up on Springsteen is something special. I’m a kid out of Jersey, and being a kid from Jersey usually means that you either have gotten out of the state, or you’re trying to get out. I managed to do that during my high school years, when I attended school in the city. But one of the few things that came with me was my Springsteen music. There are different people who like Springsteen. There are the Jerseyans, there’s the middle-class of the East Coast, who have listened to the Boss’ words and heard almost identical versions of their own stories, and finally there are the converts. These are the people who always looked down on Springsteen until they attended a concert or listened to an album and fell in love.
These are the people I’m writing to now. I’ve never really lived in a culture where the Boss isn’t considered THE BOSS. Coming to the West Coast, I’m appalled at how small of a fanbase Springsteen has out here, and more importantly, on Occidental’s campus. I understand that people think he’s outdated, old-fashioned, or just not musically talented, but you really have to listen to his music to understand where he’s come from, and then realize that, in some way or another, you’re from the same exact place.
In what is arguably his signature song, “Born to Run,” Springsteen tells the story of two young lovers stuck in a place where daily life is a struggle, and the only way for them to bust out of their town “that pulls the bones from your back” is to run far away from that place. In “Thunder Road” a similar sentiment is illustrated by another two lovers who “have one last chance to make it real,” because the two lanes along Thunder Road can take them anywhere but where they are now. Later in his career, Springsteen moved toward a more pop-oriented sound that nevertheless documented the same melancholy, day-to-day life that is so familiar to those of us who grew up, well, anywhere. When 9/11 happened, Springsteen went political with a success that few rock musicians have been able to experience. The Rising exemplifies the Boss’ thoughts on the terrorist attacks and its aftermath, culminating in the resounding “My City of Ruins,” originally written about his hometown of Asbury Park, NJ, but given new meaning after 9/11. Springsteen then parted from his E Street Band and released We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. When he rejoined with the E Street Band, Springsteen continued with his celebration of protest songs with Magic. Here, the genre was no longer the acoustic folk of Pete Seeger, but a redux to the aggressive, thrilling, just generally energized and loud music invented by Springsteen almost 40 years earlier. And now comes Working for a Dream. We can look at the track listings and already feel the electricity, and I know that with titles like “Life Itself,” “This Life,” “Queen of the Supermarket” and the titular “Working on a Dream” we’re in for more Springsteen wisdom that got me through daily life growing up.
Tramps like us, baby we were born to run. The Boss said it, but we’ve all got to do it, at least at some point during our lives. The Boss often refers to America as the Promised Land, and he says heaven’s waiting down the tracks. But how to get there, who knows? I’m not even sure if he knows. But Springsteen’s message is that the greatest thing we can do is to find our own majesty in our ordinary lives, so we might as well keep running.
Dean DeChiaro is a first-year History major. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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