Why we need Bruce Springsteen at the Super Bowl.
The first time I saw Bruce Springsteen was on a black and white poster during my first trip to the East Coast at the age of fourteen. It was 1979 and I now know I was staring at the cover shot from “Darkness at the Edge of Town” which had come out the year before, but in my small southern town I had never seen those black, soul-old eyes that never seemed to match that young face. My former hippie, now just-vagrant-artist-mom played his album for me that night. I listened to it over and over all that Christmas vacation, never admitting to her, of course, that I liked it. I felt his words, but didn’t know why; I longed to hear a song again as soon as it ended. I didn’t understand his factory-town images and job-loss pains, but even a teen from the South understood wanting to get out of a place you felt would eventually smother you but still fearing the dangers of leaving it…a fear and longing that comes from “wanting things that can only be found in the darkness at the edge of town.”
I continued to listen and follow that Jersey boy I met that cold winter on the East coast. I mean “everybody’s got a hungry heart” at sixteen, and when I went to college kids from the big cities knew him and played his cassettes at parties. When I realized that people can “end up like a dog that’s been beat too much and spend half your life just coverin’ up” I was a College Democrats member so my early anti-Reagan fire was fueled and now like my mom’s generation, I started listening to the politics in my music. Yet, I knew deep down that I still didn’t truly know those guys and gals who spent their lives “workin’ neath the wheels til you get your facts learned”, and the idea that “the poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king, and a king ain’t satisfied til he rules everything” was just too dark and depressing for a twenty-year-old who had finally gotten out of “my hometown”.
Years into a young marriage and a bad career choice, I too began to wonder if “in the end what you don’t surrender, well the world just strips away.” Bruce’s old and new lyrics would speak to me out of my radio every few years, and they were like old high school buddies you needed to see every few years to remember who you used to be, and who you still could still become.
After 9-11 he helped heal us as a nation and called us to “come on up for the Rising”, to meet him “at Mary’s Place” and party with our friends even though no one ever knows the answer to “how can you heal broken-heated?” He was our singing savior. We recovered, New York came back, and the stock market surged.
Today, as a foreclosure attorney I am the “mister” in a pink suit to whom Bruce has sung on behalf of the working folk for 30 years. I now see on a daily basis that young guy who tells me “I’ve done my best to live the right way, I get up every morning and go to work each day, and Mister I ain’t a boy, yes I’m a man, and I believed in the Promised Land”. These guys tell me “I got a job working construction but lately there ain’t been much work on account of the economy, now all them things that seemed so important, well mister they just vanished right into the air, now I just act like I don’t remember”. And sitting beside him is his “Mary, who acts like she don’t care.”
I interview people who just a year before were rich. They ran too fast and built too big, and now they’re finding “it’s a sad funny ending to find yourself pretending to be a rich man in a poor man’s shirt.” They “wake up in the night with a fear so real, spend a life waiting for a moment that just don’t come.”
Like Bruce I got rid of the bad career moves and kept the good marriage. I now want to grab these young couples, stick my Ipod earphones in their ears and make them hear “now our luck may have died and our love may be cold, but with you I’ll forever stay, that’s a fact and maybe everything that dies someday comes back.” See, “for the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside, that it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive”, we need the Boss. We need to be reminded that this country may not “still be a beauty, but hey you’re alright, and that’s alright with me.” We can believe in the love, “the love that you gave me”, and “we can believe in the faith, the faith that you gave me, and someday it may raise us above these Badlands.”
I tell my teenager son that the Super Bowl committee chose this “old guy” because he really can “save” you at one of his concerts; he can remind you of the hope of youth still in your soul. That’s why we need him at the Super Bowl and not 50 Cent or Brittany.
I know that Bruce wants us all to “make a plan, and well if you can’t make it, then stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive, if you can, and meet me in a dream of this hard land.” So let’s go back and listen to all our old Springsteen albums, 8-tracks, cassettes, CD’s and downloads; let’s remember who we were and who we are.
Mostly, stay hard American, make plans, and remember “Baby we were born to run.”
Martha L. Londagin
2600 Harber Oaks Loop
Grove, OK 74344
All “___” words by Bruce Springsteen, of course.