Dear People of the Future,
Hear ye …and so forth. And stuff.
No doubt you are already aware of Bruce Springsteen. He is, after all, the greatest. And if you have ever had the misfortune of meeting me, then simply by being in my vicinity for more than thirty consecutive seconds I consider you, by proxy, a fan. Think of me like a carrier monkey humming ‘Rosalita’. Whether you want to be or not, too bad. I probably bit you, and now you are. Or you will be.
No, you are.
But the reason that Bruce Springsteen is so great (don’t question it, just accept) is because the world is full of idiocy. And I’m not just talking about idiocy in the music industry (although do look up the name ‘One Direction’ sometime if you want civilisation’s inclination toward mass hysteria to depress you). I’m talking about politics, social inequity, rudeness, laziness, apathy, greed, injustice in its grotesque myriad forms. There are times when the world can be a bleak, ominous, vile thing, swarming with people trying to exploit or suppress or mislead for their own benefit. Indeed, sometimes, seemingly, just because they can; because it seems like they’re programmed that way. It’s as if that’s all that people are or ever can be. Idiots, making things harder, making them cruel…
And in those moments, when everything good and bright seems tinged with a sepia melancholy tang, its profoundly heartening to know that you can always put on a Springsteen album – Magic maybe, or Born To Run. You can hear those opening licks; feel the throb of those guitars; the snap of the drums: the swell of strings and frisson of the harmonica; swirling; searing up your spine – and suddenly you know, you just know that there is good in the world. That if something so ineffable, so indescribable, can be felt, can be communicated – across space, across time; from a skinny kid in New Jersey four decades ago, into your ears, through whatever as-yet-undiscovered bodily organ it is in which we process the enormity of music – you know that then there is hope.
And then – then you hear him sing. That worldly, unearthly voice: aching, howling, crackling with melody like sheet lightning; lyrics that leave the air sizzling with poetry. You hear him and realise: goddamn it, someone gets it. Someone sees all the beauty and pain in life. Someone feels that inequity, that cruelty, that shallow misanthropic hum, and doesn’t excuse it, doesn’t wipe it away. He transforms it, shapes it into melody, moulds it into a tonal wrecking ball*, a searing rallying cry that rips through such apathy with a torrential roar.
Springsteen isn’t just the voice of a generation, or a country, or a moment. He’s like hunger. You feel him in your gut. Sure, he can make you ache, but he makes you want more – to yearn for more, to hope for more, to search and stretch and grow. He reminds you you’re alive, that you’re bound to something bigger and more splendid and wild than all the momentary frustrations of life might otherwise suggest.
The world is a beautiful place, and as long as sounds like Bruce Springsteen keep humming in our collective souls – ready to be tapped into, ready to rekindle our faith – no amount of idiocy or cruelty can extinguish that pilot light of the divine within us all.
…Unless of course One Direction are still around when you read this. If any of those guys are your president I give you permission to abandon all hope.
p.s. – Also, Batman’s name was Bruce. …Am I suggesting that Spingsteen is Batman? No. But you never see them in the same place at the same time.
This article was first posted on September 15, 2012