Last night was only the third time I saw Bruce Springsteen in concert. The time before that was thirty (ten times three) years ago in Ithaca, New York. I was a lot younger then, obviously, and that was before a lifetime of growth and change and loss. And yet, I’m pretty sure I enjoyed last night in Nashville more than I enjoyed my youthful night in Ithaca. Springsteen’s poetry has been a constant during these years and his words reflected many times in my life. I graduated high school the same year “Greetings from Asbury Park” was released. At the time I also listened to The Grateful Dead, The Doors, and The Who. Oh, I still do, but their words aren’t as compelling as the words that included scenes from my own “growing up”. And Springsteen’s third album “Born To Run” is the one I grew up with the most. In Nashville last night, Springsteen and the E Street Band played the entire “Born To Run” album. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
And from 1975 til today, the words from that album continue to be a part of me. It’s where I came from, where I’ve been and where I am today. About the blue collar town where I went to high school – not far from the coastal beaches of the Cape (that’s Cape Cod, if you must know) – I felt the connection years later to a sensation very close to the lines “Of all the boys you sent away they haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets they scream your name at night in the street your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet”. And then of course with all my classmates wondering how far away we could get from this town, these words later screamed at me, long after I first heard them: “It’s a town full of losers and I’m pulling out of here to win.” “Born to Run” undoubtedly is the top album for me in my lifetime, and “Thunder Road” it’s top song. The memories were there and still are.
Hearing those soulful piano chords of “Meeting Across the River” always brings back memories of driving an old VW beetle through a blinding snowstorm with my sweetheart at the time. And that was when I started listening to the power of Springsteen’s poetry. I mean really listening. His words began to take shape in my own life. Yes, later I lived not far from Springsteen’s beloved shore towns in New Jersey, and I met the girls who “combed their hair in rear view mirrors” and the boys “who tried to look so hard”. All true.
Something that Springsteen did not play last night was “4th of July Asbury Park” (Sandy), from his second album, “The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle”, which holds a special place in my heart. It was in New Jersey on 4th of July that I first met the person who would eventually become my life partner. And that night, as I was driving back to New York on the Jersey Turnpike, I saw fireworks in the distance, and heard these words: “Oh love me tonight, and I promise I’ll love you forever”. And so at that moment, Springsteen’s words became permanently woven into my own life.
Springsteen did not forget where he was last night, and included a rousing tribute to Johnny Cash with his “Ring of Fire”. And all of the faithful and adoring listeners at the Sommet Center last night believed that he sang Jackie Wilson’s (Your Love Keeps Taking Me) “Higher and Higher” as a special tribute to all of us. I had to wait to almost the very end to hear another one of my favorites, Rosalita, a song that embodies despair and hope at the same time – something we can all relate to.
As to the number three. It took 3 hours to drive from Memphis to Nashville, the concert was an amazing 3 hours long, 3 hours to drive back to Memphis, and 3 hours of sleep. And it was worth it. Thank you Bruce, Clarence, Steve, Nils, Max, and Garry (and also the late Danny Federici) for being in my life since 1973. You’ll always be a magical part of who I am and I’ll always remember you. You might remember me too. I was the “girl” in Nashville who waved a handwoven scarf above my head!