The Boss will give you life advice. Just listen to his music and you'll hear the belief in love and faith in hope.
Less than three years ago, I turned off the alarm, showered, gathered my stuff and kissed my wife goodbye. Then I stepped outside into the dark, cold November morning, climbed into the U-Haul, picked up my brother on the other side of Denver, and headed down the 1,265 miles of highway to Portland.
Ten months later, I was divorced after 27 years of all the good, bad and in-between that define a marriage. But it was only recently, with a new wife and a reinvented life, listening to the music of Bruce Springsten that I had time to reflect. It has been 25 years since the last time, in the same town, with other friends and my ex, that I realized why his chorus calls so strongly to me and my generation.
Each of us, in the little dramas and serial heartbreaks, in the abundant indignities of the workplace and the euphoric highs of highway drives, is Springsteen.
Not Springsteen himself, but the Everyman in his sagas of hope and hurt. We have grown up with him, and along the decades since we all broke out of the home nest, our lives have unfurled in quirky tangles, like a bad garden hose. Meanwhile, Springsteen was there to spin out with glorious consistency his oddly knowing take on our lives.
We may be blue-collar. We may be white-collar. We may have sold out, gotten over, survived despite it all, succeeded on the backs of others, been crushed beneath the clambering mob. But all of us have felt, at some point in our lives, what it is like to populate the world of Springsteen.
Springsteen Sings Our Lives
When the reconstituted E Street Band kicked into the opening chords of Badlands, it all came roaring back. We all have our favorite songs. Some people favor Born to Run. It's impossible not to appreciate The Ties That Bind. And everyone can relate to the swagger of Out in the Street.
But when the words of Badlands came cascading over me, I realized why it was so important to be here, among the thousands. To me, Badlands is Springsteen's most powerful anthem of frustration, assertion, loss and striving. Belief in love. Faith in hope. "A notion deep inside / that it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive."
Not until the concert, though, did I realize it was my story. Written long before I realized I was "caught in a crossfire, that I don't understand," or that I was coming, like the song's narrator, to not "give a damn, for the same old played out scenes" or the "in betweens." It foretold the path of my life.
I knew none of that when I first heard Badlands and felt its belly punch. But looking back, I can see how it played out. So in retrospect, it's a retrofit chronicle.
"You wake up in the night, with a fear so real, spend your life waiting, for a moment that just don't come."
"Let the broken hearts stand as the price you've gotta pay."
And moved on. Just like Springsteen.