Because I grew up knowing that rock music was evil, being as sure of it as I was of the fact that I had Jesus in my heart and that Catholics were going to hell and that the sky was blue, the first time I ever heard Bruce Springsteen sing was on the 2006 Grammy Awards show. In the middle of all the overproduced tripe that sometimes dominates the show, the spotlight came up on the Boss siting by himself on a bar stool, holding an acoustic guitar and with his harmonica around his neck. Hearing him sing these lyrics, I became an instant fan:
Now every woman and every man
They want to take a righteous stand
Find the love that God wills
And the faith that He commands
I’ve got my finger on the trigger
And tonight faith just ain’t enough
When I look inside my heart
There’s just devils and dust
Well I’ve got God on my side
And I’m just trying to survive
What if what you do to survive
Kills the things you love
Fear’s a dangerous thing
It can turn your heart black you can trust
It’ll take your God filled soul
Fill it with devils and dust
That song, Devils and Dust, is still one of the most played songs on my iTunes today. So when his newest album, Magic, came out in October of last year, I planned on picking it up. But I didn’t go out and buy it until I read this review from Andy Whitman, which made me drop everything I was doing on that Sunday afternoon and go find a copy. And it is, far and away, my favorite album of last year. After addressing come complaints about the album, Andy wrote:
The good news? The best news, in fact? This is a Bruce Springsteen rock ‘n roll album, a glorious, strutting, anthemic arena shaker, full of big gestures and big statements the likes of which we haven’t heard since Born in the U.S.A. And in truth, we haven’t heard some of these sounds since the Ford administration and Born to Run: Danny Federici’s circus calliope on “Livin in the Future,” Professor Roy Bittan’s lyrical piano intro on “I’ll Work For Your Love,” those impossibly outsized sax breaks from Clarence Clemons, the old trick of kicking it up a notch with a quick key change before launching into one of those patented, wailing solos…
We’ve heard this – we’ve heard all of it, in fact – before. But we’ve never heard it played this way in the past; flat out, reveling in the din of a thousand guitars and Max Weinberg’s pounding drums, the tongues speaking a cautionary tale in a transcendently joyful language. And that is ultimately the triumph of Magic. It is a sad album, at times even a desperate album. But none of that overrides the couch jumping factor, the desire to propel my sagging, middle-aged body through the air like a rock ‘n roll comet; bright, fading fast, but burning. This is what Bruce Springsteen does for me, what he’s always done for me when he’s at his idealistic, arena shaking best. It is, and always will be, magic.
My favorite song lyric of last year, indeed, one of my favorite song lyrics ever, is found in the opening lines of I’ll Work For Your Love: “Pour me a drink Theresa / In one of those glasses you dust off / And I’ll watch the bones in your back / Like the stations of the cross.”
While looking around artsandfaith.com, I found some more thoughts Andy wrote about why he loves Springsteen’s music:
For me — for many of my friends, actually — Born to Run captured that feeling and that era perfectly. I loved it passionately; still do, in fact. I can’t truly say that about too many albums. Springsteen was a poet like Dylan, he put his soul into the music like nobody else at the time, and he played a 3.5 hour show at my university when he was right on the cusp of stardom that just about convinced me that I was not alone in the universe and that rock ‘n roll was no substitute for God, but that it was damn close.
So now to the reason for this post. Last week, Andy posted on his blog that, if all goes well, he’ll be signing a contract within the next month to write a book about Bruce Springsteen! He quoted the lyrics to a Springsteen song I was not familiar with, Living Proof, in his post, what he called “the best damn gospel song of the ’90s.” I can’t wait to read a book full of Andy’s thoughts from poking around in Springteen’s catalogue and pointing out treasures the rest of us have overlooked or never even known about. Here’s hoping the whole thing comes to fruition.