I Believe in Rock and Roll

Nancy - Chicago, Illinois
Entered on May 26, 2012
Age Group: 65+
Themes: music
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe in rock and roll. I believe in serious things too, like the First Amendment, the democratic process, three-day weekends, and free wifi. And I believe that some day the Cubs will win the World Series. But today I want to tell you why I believe in rock and roll.

I was a grownup—you could even say middle-aged—before I became a rock and roll fan. Most people become rock fans when they’re young, but among my friends in college, jazz was the only cool music. We listened to cool west coast jazz and bebop. We were all really serious about jazz.

Then one day in 1984, I hooked up a TV set to cable TV for the first time and discovered MTV. Those were the days when MTV programmed music videos day and night. I was mesmerized—by Michael Jackson, the Police, Prince, and most of all, by Bruce Springsteen. His Born in the USA album was a huge hit and the title track plus Dancing in the Dark played in regular rotation.

I began buying Springsteen records and then CDs, but it was years before I attended my first Springsteen concert. I don’t know why it took so long. My nephew, a lifelong fan, took me to my first Bruce concert. It was a life-changing, magical experience.

The lyrics to his songs had always spoken to me but now his voice, his movements, and all the keyboards, drums, guitars and saxophone of the E Street Band spoke too. I was caught up in the experience with thousands of other fans, singing, dancing, clapping and yes, sometimes crying. A live rock and roll concert is loud, emotional, cathartic, exhausting and exhilarating. Recorded music can never come close—it just reminds you of the real thing.

Now, 13 years after my first Springsteen concert, I’ve attended 25 more, four of them this year. My saner friends ask, “Aren’t they all the same?” No, each one is different. Each one is full of surprises. And the crowd at each one is a moving, singing, celebrating community. At each concert, Bruce recognizes some of the political issues of the day in his music and his commentary. That’s how he creates a community that believes in the power of rock and roll.

Today, I’m in post-retirement mode and my belief in the power of the music hasn’t changed. Most of the time, I go to concerts with friends or relatives. But even when I go alone, I still feel that power that joins us in the spirit of rock and roll. In this divided world, that’s not a small achievement.

Decades ago, Don McLean wrote “American Pie,” a classic rock song about “the day the music died”—the day of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper. McLean sings, “Do you believe in rock and roll? Can music save your mortal soul?”

I’m not sure about the soul part. But I’m positive about the magic of rock and roll.