Springsteen’s Masculinity

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This is a great piece by Canadian writer and poet Carter Vance.  Here is a taste of his The Smart Set piece, “Walk Like a Man: What I Learned from Bruce Springsteen“:

For all the working-class power bona fides in Springsteen’s music, though, I still come back to the men that populate the stories he tells. In many ways, they are traditional masculine archetypes, guys who work physical jobs during the day and burn rubber in big cars at night, but they are also so much more. By turns, they are sensitive, loving, defeated, angered, worldly enough to know they cannot speak for everyone but trying to better their empathy nonetheless. With the modern search for a model of masculinity which is untainted by toxicities of misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of bigotry, the greatest hope that the men in Springsteen’s songs give us is that this is possible. They are still distinctly masculine, but in a way that allows in complexity of feeling, solidarity with those different from them (not for nothing was Springsteen drafted to write and perform the title song to Philadelphia, the first mainstream American film to deal sympathetically with the AIDS crisis) and loving, loyal connection to their families and communities.

In short, the Springsteen man, if not necessarily Bruce Springsteen himself, is someone I keep aspiring to be.

Read the entire piece here.

Springsteen’s Harry Potter Song Will be Released in an Upcoming Movie

I’ll bet you didn’t know that Bruce Springsteen wrote a song for a Harry Potter movie.  His song “I’ll Stand by You Always” did not make the cut, but it has now found its way into a new Springsteen-inspired movie titled “Blinded by the Light.”

Here is a taste of Steve Pond’s piece at The Wrap:

Almost 20 years after he wrote the song for a “Harry Potter” movie, Bruce Springsteen has finally found a home for his unreleased ballad “I’ll Stand by You Always.” The song has been added to the end credits of “Blinded by the Light,” an upcoming, Springsteen-heavy New Line/Warner Bros. film from “Bend It Like Beckham” director Gurinder Chadha.

The song did not appear in “Blinded by the Light” when the film screened at Sundance in January, where its $15 million deal with New Line was the festival’s biggest. But it was added before this week’s screenings in Los Angeles and at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, and will now follow the song “Born to Run” during the end credits.

“Blinded by the Light” is based on the memoir “Greetings From Bury Park” by Sarfraz Manzoor, who was born in Pakistan but came to Great Britain as a child. Manzoor wrote about his teenage years in a small British town where his desire to become a writer was inflamed by a passion for Springsteen’s songs.

Read the rest here.

Alterman: Democrats Must Win the Springsteen Vote

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Bruce Springsteen’s music appeals to white working people.  It always has and it still does.  But many of the young working-class baby boomers who connected with Springsteen in 1970s and 1980s are no longer young working class men and women.  Many of them are white middle class and upper middle-class folks who can afford to buy a ticket to see Springsteen in concert or on Broadway.  When I go to a Springsteen concert I see a lot of guys in blue dress shirts and khakis. When I saw him on Broadway I am not sure how many working-class people were in attendance–it was hard to see everyone from the cheap seats in the back row of the Walter Kerr Theater.  (I did, however, see New York Times columnist David Brooks).

While I am sympathetic to Eric Alterman‘s piece calling the Democrats to appeal to the kind of folks who came of age with Springsteen’s albums, and I am a fan of his written work on the Boss,  I also think that a lot of Springsteen fans are conservative (there are a lot of Chris Christie-types out there) and a good number of them may have even voted for Donald Trump.

I will never forget what I witnessed on the night of September 11, 2016 at a Springsteen concert in Pittsburgh. Here is part of what I wrote about that show:

In another revealing moment a fan in the front row threw a copy of the United States Constitution onto the stage.  Bruce picked it up and showed the crowd that it had the words “F… Trump” written on it.  The crowd cheered and the woman next to me lifted her hands in agreement, but a significant number of people in my section began yelling similar derogatory things about Hillary Clinton.  Despite Springsteen’s outspoken progressive politics, his fans remain a politically eclectic bunch.

Here is a taste of Alterman’s piece in the Los Angeles Times:

With Sherrod Brown out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, a crucial question arises: Who will be the Bruce Springsteen candidate?

Who is the one that can win back Trump voters and Clinton-sitter-outers who feel forgotten by the Democrats? They’re the guys who worked the assembly line for decades but now get minimum wage at Walmart; the women feeding their families cold cuts for dinner and trying to make ends meet by selling vitamins from home; the manufacturing employees filled with xenophobic rage because the companies that used to employ them have moved their operations abroad.

Part of the reason Hillary Clinton lost working-class Democrats in 2016 was that she was seen as a representative of the very class of folk who profit from the troubles of American workers. Donald Trump’s braggadocio that he “alone” could reverse the trends that had harmed them was music to their ears.

Ever since Ronald Reagan misunderstood the lyrics to “Born in the USA,” candidates have sought to claim Springsteen’s aura as their own because of his rapport with a certain type of American voter. He has campaigned for Democrats in the past and shown particular affection for Brown, to whom he gave a shout-out while campaigning for Obama in 2012. The senator won Ohio in 2018 after Trump took it by eight points two years earlier. And while he was flirting with a presidential run, he traveled the country speaking about “The Dignity of Work.”

Read the rest here.

How Bruce Springsteen Created “Thunder Road”

Springsteen HiattI am really excited about reading music writer Brian Hiatt’s new book Bruce Springsteen: The Stories Behind the Songs.  (I would love to get a review copy so I can cover it here).

Here is a summary of the book:

The legend of Bruce Springsteen may well outlast rock ’n’ roll itself. And for all the muscle and magic of his life-shaking concerts with the E Street Band, his legendary status comes down to the songs. He is an acknowledged master of music and lyrics, with decades of hits, from “Blinded by the Light” and “Born to Run” to “Hungry Heart,” “Dancing in the Dark,” and “The Rising.”
 
In Bruce Springsteen: The Stories Behind the Songs, longtime Rolling Stone writer Brian Hiatt digs into the writing and recording of these songs and all the others on Springsteen’s studio albums, from 1973’s Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. to 2014’s High Hopes (plus all the released outtakes), and offers a unique look at the legendary rocker’s methods, along with historical context, scores of colorful anecdotes, and more than 180 photographs. Hiatt has interviewed Springsteen five times in the past and has conducted numerous new interviews with his collaborators, from longtime producers to the E Street Band, to create an authoritative and lushly illustrated journey through Springsteen’s entire songbook and career.

Rolling Stone magazine is running an excerpt from Hiatt’s book.  Here is a taste of “How Bruce Springsteen Created ‘Thunder Road‘”:

There were many revisions, including an amusing array of women’s names (In addition to Angelina, Anne, Chrissie and Christina all got a ride before Mary won out). The harmonica part in the intro was, at one point, played on sax instead. A handwritten worksheet from the sessions shows Springsteen’s focus on details like the fill Weinberg plays at the song’s “pulling here to win” climax – he wanted to try something a la the Dave Clark Five. Appel, whose relationship with Springsteen began to fray during the making of Born to Run, recalls a moment when the artist and Landau wanted to build “Thunder Road” more gradually, and replace the electric guitars that come in close to the two-minute-mark with acoustics – in Appel’s telling, he talked them out of it. As it was, Springsteen spent thirteen hours straight overdubbing electric guitar, Iovine recalls. And at some point in ‘75, Springsteen also recorded an eerie alternate version, a solo acoustic take that feels like a ghostly reflection of the released song, as if it’s being sung by a heartbroken narrator decades after its events.

As Springsteen wrote in his book Songs, “Thunder Road” offered a proposition : “Do you want to take a chance? On us? On life?” There was, however, an undercurrent of dread, as there almost always would be going forward. Springsteen was only 24 when he recorded “Thunder Road,” which makes the line “maybe we ain’t that young anymore” all the more striking. “The songs were written immediately after the Vietnam War,” Springsteen told me in 2005. “And you forget, everybody felt like that then. It didn’t matter how old you were, everybody experienced a radical change in the image they had of their country and of themselves. The reason was, ‘you were changed.’ You were going to be a radically different type of American than the generation that immediately preceded you, so that line was just recognizing that fact. The influences of a lot of my heroes from the Sixties and Fifties ended up on that record, but I realized that I was not them. I was someone else. So it wasn’t just a mish-mash of previous styles. There was a lot of stuff we loved in it from the music we loved, but there was something else, too – quite a sense of dread and uncertainty about the future and who you were, where you were going, where the whole country was going, so that found its way into the record.”

Read the entire piece here.  Or learn more about how Springsteen created “Badlands.”

“Songs That Matter Right Now”

The New York Times has put together a list of “The 25 Songs That Matter Right Now.”  Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” is at the top of the list.  Here is a taste of Hanif Abdurraqib‘s endorsement:

To live a long enough life in a place founded, in part, on violence and volatility is to know that long life may depend on someone else walking through a door you wanted no part of. Or to know that the heroes from your hometown never made it out because war got to them first. Stripped to its barest bones, “Born in the U.S.A.” asks a listener to recognize that human survival is not something we can count on. The song matters now in a different way than it did in 1984, largely because of the artist behind it: Springsteen, trying to wrestle not only with the song’s current legacy but also with how it might be co-opted decades from now, when he won’t be around to make sure people understand the ache behind the song’s fury.

Read the entire piece here.

Sportswriter Compares the Denver Nuggets to Bruce Springsteen

I’m not sure what to make of this.  Writer Mike Olson seems happy that his team has such a “hungry heart.”  Here is a taste:

Love him or hate him, Bruce Springsteen is notorious for his dedication to his audiences, performing his guts out for hours on end through thousands of shows over the course of a 50-plus year career. The average Springsteen concert is longer than the average professional football game, and regularly goes far longer. His longest show ever was four hours and six minutes long, an overseas affair. His longest U.S. concert was in Philadelphia and clocked in at four hours and four minutes. Easy to do when you start out in your teens, right? Not so fast. Bruce knocked out those 244 minutes last October, less than a year shy of his 70th birthday.

The Boss? He’s pretty much a boss.

Consistency breeds a lot of goodness in any discipline, whether you’re a rocker, a croonera sushi chef, or a basketball player. Consistency of thought, of purpose, and of action. Coming out of the All-Star break, your Denver Nuggets had been one of the more surprisingly consistent teams in the league, with winning streaks of seven, six, five (x2), and four (x4) games throughout the season. Stacking that up, 39 of their 43 wins this season have come as a part of a streak that was four games or longer. They also have a few losing streaks sprinkled throughout the season, with four and three (x2) game slips marring one of their best campaigns to date.

Their newfound consistency has also been a massive part of why they’ve won as many games as they have, frequently wearing opponents down in workman-like fashion, enabling them to run away from teams at their best, and stay close enough to reel opponents back in at their worst. Even when their shots weren’t falling, the Nuggets typically stayed in the contest, having been blown out only three times over these first sixty four games.

Read the entire piece here.

New Springsteen Book is Coming

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It is entitled Long Walk Home: Reflections on Bruce Springsteen.  Historian Jonathan Cohen and  Springsteen scholar June Skinner Sawyers are the editors and Rutgers University Press will publish it in September, 2019.  Contributors include Eric Alterman, Gina Barreca, Peter Carlin, Jim Cullen, and Louis Masur,  Here is a description:

Bruce Springsteen might be the quintessential American rock musician but his songs have resonated with fans from all walks of life and from all over the world. This unique collection features reflections from a diverse array of writers who explain what Springsteen means to them and describe how they have been moved, shaped, and challenged by his music.
 
Contributors to Long Walk Home include novelists like Richard Russo, rock critics like Greil Marcus and Gillian Gaar, and other noted Springsteen scholars and fans such as A. O. Scott, Peter Ames Carlin, and Paul Muldoon. They reveal how Springsteen’s albums served as the soundtrack to their lives while also exploring the meaning of his music and the lessons it offers its listeners. The stories in this collection range from the tale of how “Growin’ Up” helped a lonely Indian girl adjust to life in the American South to the saga of a group of young Australians who turned to Born to Run to cope with their country’s 1975 constitutional crisis. These essays examine the big questions at the heart of Springsteen’s music, demonstrating the ways his songs have resonated for millions of listeners for nearly five decades.

Commemorating the Boss’s seventieth birthday, Long Walk Home explores Springsteen’s legacy and provides a stirring set of testimonials that illustrate why his music matters.

Asbury Park in November

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Reporter Emily Wax-Thibodeaux took her five-year-olds to Springsteen’s old haunt on the Jersey story.  She tells about the visit in a piece at the Washington Post.  Here is a taste:

The Convention Hall’s Grand Arcade, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was another favorite family destination. The once-shuttered building is now open year-round and houses an artisan marketplace, where Gabby and Lincoln tried on mermaid outfits and flip-flops while I drank another round of gourmet coffee at the Asbury Park Roastery and bought organic, locally made soap at one of my all-time favorite shops, Big Spoon Little Spoon Naturals.

But for the kids, Asbury’s main draw is the Silverball Museum , with its row after row of vintage pinball machines, some dating to the 1930s. Its huge collection of arcade games, which visitors are invited to play, encompasses ’80s favorites like Pac-Man and Skee-Ball as well. The arcade’s tall stools are perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, and there are coin-operated rides out front, including two cars, a small train and a purple dinosaur.

As I watched my kids play the retro pinball machines, I felt happy for Asbury, a place that lived for so long only in my memories. Now it would be in my children’s memories, too.

Read the entire piece here.  I need to get back down to Asbury Park!

 

 

Union College Theater Department Stages 13 Short Plays on Springsteen Songs

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This looks great.  I wish I could get up to Union College to see this.  Here is the press release:

“When the Promise Was Broken” is a collection of 13 plays inspired by the songs of Bruce Springsteen, each by a different American playwright. 

The 90-minute production pieces together nine plays in a seamless evening that celebrates the all too human experience of longing, heartbreak and promises broken in working life, relationships, families and the American dream.

Performances run at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7 through Saturday, Feb. 9 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10 in Yulman Theatre. Tickets are $10 for general admissions and $7 with a Union ID, alumni and seniors. 

“For over 45 years, Bruce Springsteen’s music, lyrics and performances have been an ongoing conversation with his audiences worldwide,” said Joan Herrington, editor of the production. 

Director Patricia Culbert, senior artist-in-residence for the College’s Theatre Department, stated: “When I first read through the plays eventually chosen for our production, I made note of the central themes, looking for the linkages.” 

“These pieces are remarkably light in touch, enormously funny in many places and recognizably human in the searching, the yearning, the need for community and hope and redemption and forgiveness and opportunity,” Culbert added. 

Stage manager for the production is Matthew Dulchinos ‘20. The plays include: 

“Valhalla Correctional” by Peter Ullian, inspired by “We Take Care of Our Own” 

Cast: Helen Smith ‘22 and Etienne-Marcel Giannelli ‘20

“Bloody River” by Elaine Romero, inspired by “American Skin” 

Cast: Amber Birt ‘22, Haoyu (John) Jiang ’21 and Rochelle Nuqui ‘22

“Object Permanence” by Jennifer Blackmer, inspired by “Terry’s Song” 

Cast: Dan Gottlieb ‘19 and Aly Silbey ‘20

“Drive All Night” by Steven Dietz, inspired by “Drive All Night” 

Cast: Chloe Savitch ’22, Helen Smith ’22 and Zachary Christian ‘20

“A Semi-Autobiographical Response to Feelings of Sexual Inadequacy Prompted by Repeatedly Listening to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m On Fire’ for Four Hours Straight” by Gregory S. Moss, inspired by “I’m On Fire” 

Cast: Haoyu (John) Jiang ’21, Sarah White ’21, Sophie Hurwitz ’21 and Abdul Raafey Shoukat ‘22

“Gospel Hour” by Dan and Drew Caffrey, inspired by “State Trooper” 

Cast: Etienne- Marcel Giannelli, ’20, Aly Silbey ’20 and Rochelle Nuqui ‘22

“Merry-Go-Round Man” by Edward Baker, inspired by “Cover Me” 

Cast: Abdul Raafey Shoukat ’22, Zachary Christian ’20 and Sarah White ’21

“Pick Up Beds” by K. Frithjof Peterson, inspired by “When You’re Alone”

Cast: Chloe Savitch ’22 and Sophie Hurwitz ’21

“Glad for the Company” by Tucker Rafferty, inspired by “Nebraska” 

Cast: Emma Youmans ‘20

Box office hours are 12:30-1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and reservations can be made by calling 518-388-6545.

Maybe Bruce Springsteen Was Born to Run Home

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Springsteen on Broadway (courtesy of Netflix)

Religion News Service is running my piece on Catholicism and “home” in “Springsteen on Broadway.” Needless to say, I had fun with this one.

Here is a taste:

Yet, as Springsteen knows all too well, escaping a Catholic past in the Irish and Italian enclaves of working-class New Jersey is not easy. “You know what they say about Catholics … there’s no getting out … (the priests and nuns) did their work hard and they did it well.”

Springsteen understands that the past often has its way with us — shaping us, haunting us, defining us, motivating us and empowering us. Like a priest conducting Mass, he asks the audience to receive the Lord’s Prayer as a “benediction” — perhaps a final blessing from a music legend who was never quite able to outrun the sound of the church bells.

Maybe this is what it means, as he wrote famously in “Born to Run,” to “get to that place where we really want to go” where we can “walk in the sun.” Maybe Bruce Springsteen was born to run home.

Over the years, Springsteen has become the darling of progressive politicians. He campaigned for John Kerry in 2004, Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and (briefly) for Hillary Clinton in 2016. But when he tells his story on Broadway, he transports us back to a day when progressive ideals and the relentless quest for the American dream were not separated from tradition, roots, place, a longing for home, and Christian faith.

Read the entire piece here.

The Humanity of Bruce Springsteen

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Here is a taste of Peter Van Buren’s wonderful review of “Springsteen on Broadway“:

The evening was as necessary as a last hospital visit with an old friend. Bruce wanted to know—he asked—if he’d done okay by us, if he’d been a “good companion.” We’d made him very rich, allowing him as he joked to never have to hold a job in his life. Twice he accused himself of being a fraud, saying he’d never been inside a factory. But it’s time now to take that long walk. We’re tired, we’re old, we’re at the point where there is more to look back on than to look forward to. So did he do okay by us? Was it…enough?

Yeah, Bruce, it was. The show finished where things started, really, with “Born to Run.” Everyone in the audience heard it a first time a different time since it came out in 1975, but since then 43 years had passed, we had grown old together. Every one of us, and by God that had to include Bruce, heard a hundred versions of that song in that moment. We heard it on 8-track, bootleg cassette, LP, CD, MP3, DVD, YouTube, and Netflix, and faced together the warm embrace and cold slap of never being 16 years old again.

Age is omnipresent—maybe we ain’t that young anymore—right down to the construction of the song list; it’s telling that a 69-year-old Springsteen chose about a third of the set from his youthful period 40 years earlier. As he said on stage, there’s less blank paper left for us to write on. Maybe as a person, maybe as a nation. Maybe they are the same thing if we think on it right.

Read the entire piece at The American Conservative.