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.


Deb said...

This is a beautiful letter and eloquently summarizes the way so many of us feel about the man and the music. Thanks for writing and sharing it. Though he's surely heard countless tales of what his work means to people, I hope someone puts this letter in front of him. As always, I try to imagine how it feels to be on the side of this equation...

Anonymous said...


Greetings from New Orleans! I always enjoy your blog, and your birthday letter was fantastic. Every bit of it rang true for my experience, except that I'm not in the music industry and my first Springsteen show was in New Orleans in May 1976. My life has never been the same, and every song and every show -- from that first one to the show I attended in Tampa this month, has left me feeling just a little more alive.
New Orleans LA

Pete said...

Doesn't get any more well put than this, Ben. Fantastic piece, and like Deb said, it perfectly captures what a lot of us fellow devotees feel but can't put into words.

Jim Dunbar said...

Hey Ben:

Have you heard Bruce's duet with Rosanne Cash off of her new album The List??? Song's called Sea Of Heartbreak. Really stellar stuff...

whiteray said...

This is an amazing letter, Ben. A lot of it is stuff I would have said, if I'd had the imagination to think of writing the letter and the balls to actually do so. You had both, and I tip my hat and thank you for it.

whiteray said...

A bit of housekeeping: Blogger nuked me, so I'm now hanging my hat at . Thanks.

michael a. gonzales said...

great blog...can't wait to dive deeper into the soul.

Nguyen Lan Pham said...

Bss commerce
Thanks for sharing!