I’ve always loved Bruce Springsteen’s fervent adoration of Elvis. His fantastic memoir devotes an entire chapter to what it was like hearing Elvis’ music for the first time – and the chapter doesn’t once include the word “Elvis”. That’s how UNDERSTOOD it is who Springsteen is talking about. Here’s a good article about the whole Bruce/Elvis thing. If you haven’t read his memoir, I highly recommend it! Fascinating. That and Keith Richards’ memoir are well-dog-eared door-stops in my library. And Springsteen is (unsurprisingly) a wonderful writer, evoking whole worlds in a few carefully placed words:
“When it rains, the moisture in the humid air blankets our town with the smell of damp coffee grounds wafting in from the Nescafé factory at the town’s eastern edge. I don’t like coffee but I like that smell. It’s comforting; it unites the town in a common sensory experience; it’s good industry, like the roaring rug mill that fills our ears, brings work and signals our town’s vitality. There is a place here—you can hear it, smell it—where people make lives, suffer pain, enjoy small pleasures, play baseball, die, make love, have kids, drink themselves drunk on spring nights and do their best to hold off the demons that seek to destroy us, our homes, our families, our town.”
I haven’t written much about him, but here are two pieces (one of which wasn’t written by me at all):
Over the last couple of years, I had a lot of fun posting my brother Brendan’s music writing from his old blog. He did a 50 Best Albums list, and then did a whole series on bands he loved, shows he’s attended, artists he revered, etc. I love Bren’s writing. I posted all of it.
Bruce Springsteen’s eerie Nebraska was #45 on Bren’s 50 Best Albums list (and the numbering was pretty much arbitrary, just a way to collate all of it.) I love Bren’s words on the album, particularly because he’s not a huge Springsteen fan.
In 2019, I reviewed Blinded by the Light, based on journalist Sarfraz Manzoor memoir Greetings From Bury Park: Race. Religion. Rock’n’Roll. Manzoor broke free of his immigrant family’s expectations because of Springsteen’s music, which showed him a way out. It’s a wonderful movie (so many critics included words like “I’m not a Springteen fan, but–” in their reviews. Hey. It’s not about YOU. Who the hell cares. Bazillions of people DO love Springsteen. Welcome to the minority.) Anyway, right around the time that Blinded by the Light came out, my niece and nephew – ages 5 and 3 – discovered Springsteen and became obsessed. I wrote about this in the review. My niece Beatrice was Bruce Springsteen for Halloween. Like … that’s the level we’re talking about when we talk about Bruce Springsteen.
And finally: I love that Eric Church – country-rock-and-roll-crossover-superstar – wrote a song about Springsteen, and what Springsteen’s music evokes for him. Beautiful lyrics. Song as sense memory conduit. This is what music does for us. It transports us back.
“The primary math of the real world is one and one equals two. The layman (as, often, do I) swings that every day. He goes to the job, does his work, pays his bills and comes home. One plus one equals two. It keeps the world spinning. But artists, musicians, con men, poets, mystics and such are paid to turn that math on its head, to rub two sticks together and bring forth fire. Everybody performs this alchemy somewhere in their life, but it’s hard to hold on to and easy to forget. People don’t come to rock shows to learn something. They come to be reminded of something they already know and feel deep down in their gut. That’s when the world is at its best, when we are at our best, when life feels fullest, one and one equals three. It’s the essential equation of love, art, rock ’n’ roll and rock ’n’ roll bands. It’s the reason the universe will never be fully comprehensible, love will continue to be ecstatic, confounding, and true rock ’n’ roll will never die.” — Bruce Springsteen