Bruce Springsteen – Introductory Page

Bruce Springsteen

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OK, so this just occurred to me: if Bruce Springsteen is supposed to be the champion of the working man, then why is his nickname “The Boss”? What kind of self-respecting blue-collar working man idolizes his boss? Shouldn’t it be, like, “The Teamsters Official”? Or “The Burger Flipper”? What about “The Underpaid Grunt”? Maaaaybe “The Unusually Employee-Friendly Middle Manager Who Goes To Bat For His Supervisees When Corporate Wants To Cut Payroll,” but even that might be pushing it. What the hell, people?

Anyway, Bruuuuuce has indeed been the beloved voice of the American working class for over forty years, not because he’s necessarily the most articulate or brilliant songwriter to have ever covered topics like economic hardship, crime, and hard luck in the heartland (Woody Guthrie, James McMurtry, and DBT would like a word with you), but because he has managed to portray such issues in way that none of his predecessors, contemporaries, or disciples have ever replicated, and should not waste their time doing so. Specifically, he raised his hardscrabble, Average Joe characters out of the ascetic, straightforward storytelling style of the folk tradition and, in his own bombastic way, cast them as players in grand, romantic, sometimes redemptive, sometimes tragic movies. Springsteen songs are sweeping, archetypal dramas, not only lyrically, but often musically (Nebraska and his other folk material notwithstanding), with all those roaming pianos and sax solos from the Big Man and what not. There’s something very powerful about the idea that the type of people Bruce sings about are worthy of these huge, important-sounding songs played by a gigantic band in full stadiums. In some small way, Springsteen can make us regular folk feel like we matter more than society dictates.

That said, I’m of the opinion that when it comes to the kinds of things Springsteen sings about, too much piano-and-sax bombast can not only sometimes get in the way of the message, but also get away from the type of stripped-down guitar rock that I personally enjoy. But don’t mistake me for a Bruce hater by any means. Really, I don’t think my opinion of him is all that common. Most of the world seems to be divided into people who consider Bruce to be a messianic genius (he’s not) and those who consider his whole blue-collar spokesman persona to be totally contrived and phony (it isn’t) and in general find his music to be weaksauce. There don’t seem to be a whole lot of people like me who fall somewhere in between (although I’m much closer to the former opinion). See, I’ve always dug what Bruce is all about and what he’s tried to do – he’s certainly one of rock’s master storytellers, thanks to his transportive eye for detail, from slamming screen doors to dead dogs on the side of the highway. I’m just not always the hugest fan of how he’s gone about doing it. For me, the grittier Bruce gets, the better.



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