The milestone album Born to Run made Springsteen a star, selling millions of copies upon its release in 1975. It was the work of a deeply spiritual poet.
This Sunday, the third day of Advent, is a splendid occasion for a savior to rise from these streets. Not the Savior, mind you, but a musician who can make a big difference in your life. Like Bach. Beethoven. Brahms. Bruce. I’ve had the good fortune of watching one of them on Broadway a year ago, and that show will be available on Netflix this Sunday.
Way back before most of you were born, in a far-away country, one of the three available FM stations had a one-hour show each workday afternoon devoted to American music. One day, on comes some Kraut sociologist who explains zat zere is a place called New Jersey, zat zey haff girls, and zat it produced a new Bob Dylan with a great new song: Geboren um zu laufen (and yes, they really did translate the lyrics for the clueless listeners).
“I wrote Born to Run,” the Boss has said, “so you’d never need to hear another song.” Close to true. A country that can produce that stuff, I figured, can’t be all bad; and so, a few years and Bruce albums later, I moved to this promised land, and I’ve lived among the hungry and the haunted happily ever since. I’ve even learned English (sort of) but I haven’t managed to make it quite as forceful as Mr. Springsteen’s halting German: Ich moechte mich bedanken bei allen Leuten in Ost-Berlin die dieses Konzert moeglich machten and oops, there goes the Wall (and the West Germans paid for it).
I’m struck by how well the man has captured my sense of things over the decades, all the way into old-age wistfulness. I am grateful that my children can recite his lyrics from 40 years ago. Some of Mr. Springsteen’s work is corny for sure; a few lamentable pieces are agitprop. But at its best, it’s one sustained prayer to his Holy Mother and to this country, with never an ounce of irony or cynicism. He can’t think that way—and good for him.
Of course I’ll be watching come Sunday. So should you: it is two and a half hours of magic.