Trying To Get To You

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A 60th Birthday Letter To Bruce Springsteen

Dear Bruce,

Happy 60th! It’s really hard for me to believe you’re 60, and I’d be willing to bet my copy of Born To Run that you’ll be celebrating with a healthy bit of quiet disbelief. It all goes by so fast, doesn’t it? If it’s any consolation, the way you’re rolling these days, 60 is going to be the new 50. Hell – you could probably make 60 be the new 45.

To get right down to it, I don’t know what I would have done without your music. I look back upon my life and you’ve been so entwined in the fabric of it – my joys and sorrows, my successes and failures, my dreams and disappointments, that it’s impossible to imagine what living would be like without your music. You’ve been a means to some of my deepest friendships, and you’ve been an essential companion in the midst of my darkest solitude. I’ve ecstatically screamed along to “Born To Run” with 70,000 other people shining around me and I’ve sat alone listening to Nebraska, wondering if I’ll ever have what I want for my life.

But through it all, your music has been an anchor for me, in both my personal and professional life. I can pinpoint the exact moment I decided to go into the music business – May 18, 1988 at Madison Square Garden, in the middle of “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out.” In the full thrall of the ecstasy you generated, I said to myself, “I have to make music my life.”

That has been an amazing road, and recently, an immensely challenging one, as both I and the music business itself face a crumbling old world and an emerging new one, a new one that looks little like the one that came before. But I remain undaunted and still totally committed to music as a vehicle for inspiration, possibility, love, sex, joy and the confronting of the things that are the hardest for us to deal with. And I won’t give up. Next week, I’ll be heading into a recording studio to produce a great young artist I’m working with – I’m sure I’ll be thinking of you a lot as I get to work.

Most of all, I think your work has been an incredible partner in fighting my own cynicism and resignation. You acknowledge the cruelness that exists in this world without it curdling into cheap nihilism – and then hold out for the possibility of breaking through one’s circumstances. And when I think about what I’m most cynical and resigned about, I realize that most often, it’s myself – and your music has been one of the greatest tools possible for that daily battle.

More than anything though, what your music gave me, especially when I was a boy and so often felt like a misfit and outsider, was a sense of a world out there that I could find my place in. My dad was wonderful in providing that for me too, but listening to The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, The River and Born To Run made that world feel attainable to me, and it instilled a sense of responsibility within myself to go out there and find it – or create it for myself. I’ve done that, and I don’t think I would have ever done it quite the same way without your music.

So Bruce, even though you haven’t wised up yet and made me your official vaultmaster and producer of a Bootleg Series, I’ll forgive you that because I’m so immensely grateful for what you’ve provided for me and people the world over – joy, fun, ecstasy, soul, passion, poignancy, and an access to the best parts of ourselves. There will never be another one like you.

Thank you, Bruce. Long may you run.