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Once again, it’s 4th of July time, which always makes me think of classic Americana symbols — apple pie, a bald eagle, and the image of Bruce Springsteen posing dramatically, Telecaster in hand, in front of an American flag. Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen was born September 23, 1949 and has been filling cookouts with arena-rocking anthems for over forty years now, with no signs of stopping.
Image via Eric Meola
I love Bruce Springsteen for his pure talent as a musician and writer. And for his unwavering support of social justice, and for his striking good looks (uh, hello Scruffy Springsteen circa Born to Run). But what really makes me love Bruce is the way he approaches his craft – something that I, as a fellow creative, admire immensely.
He isn’t afraid to be a perfectionist. Early in his career, producers had trouble working with Bruce because of these perfectionist tendencies: he was looking for sounds he heard “in [his] head” that he couldn’t articulate and would record over and over. He recorded the demos for 1982’s stark Nebraska album alone in his bedroom with a four-track recorder – and after re-recording the songs with the whole E Street Band, decided the originals were better and released them instead. The 12 tracks of the iconic album Born in the USA were culled from over 80 original songs. Needless to say, Bruce wants to get it right in a way that seems uncommon in this era of posting demos to YouTube.
Image via Lynn Goldsmith
He knows when to take a step back if he needs it. The mid- to late-90s are often loosely referred to as a sort of “lost period” for Bruce. After releasing the Ghost of Tom Joad in 1995, he took a step back, regrouping and releasing songs on soundtracks, which themselves are classics (“Streets of Philadelphia” from the film Philadelphia won him a Golden Globe and an Oscar, and don’t forget “Secret Garden” from Jerry Maguire.) He has even admitted this himself. But he didn’t let this slow period dissuade him or make him angry. Legend has it that, shortly after September 11th, 2001, Bruce took a trip to the beach in Asbury Park. A stranger in a nearby car recognized him, rolled down his window, and yelled “we need you now.” Bruce’s response? He released The Rising, a gospel-inspired album chock-full of the spirit of rebuilding and rebirth that a country in uncertain times needed.
Image via Jo Lopez Photography
His career longevity is simply unmatched. I saw him most recently in April, and he played for nearly three hours. I was emotionally exhausted by the end, and I wasn’t even on stage. And he’s forty years (well, forty years minus four days, to be exact) older than me! I will borrow words from the inimitable Jon Stewart, who introduced Bruce Springsteen at the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors Gala: “…whenever I see Bruce Springsteen do anything, he empties the tank – every time. And the beautiful thing about this man is he empties that tank for his family, he empties that tank for his art, he empties that tank for his audience, and he empties it for his country. And we, on the receiving end of that beautiful gift are ourselves rejuvenated, if not redeemed and I thank you.”
Image via Annie Leibovitz
+ Do you prefer to rock out to Born in the USA or are you more of a quiet, Nebraska type? Check out my song selections in the playlist below and let me know what essentials I missed in the comments!