I knew that, come what may, I would post something about Bruce Springsteen today for his 65th birthday. Deciding on what proved more of a challenge.
It starts with wanting to write about even more than just him in these crowded hours. Then, I needed to think of what, precisely, to say about The Boss—maybe something a bit different, but which still conveys something of his essence.
My mind kept coming back to this day in 1979—not only his 30th birthday, but one of the days he performed a set as part of Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE)—better known as the “No Nukes” concerts.
While he had performed, for instance, with one of the prime movers in the show, Jackson Browne, this was the first time Springsteen had appeared among so many industry illuminati. Even the likes of Graham Nash and Tom Petty, no slouches in front of live audiences, learned what all kinds of fans (including myself) could have told them: You are simply going to be overshadowed by The Boss. Deal with it.
Picking a video from this show was harder than picking an appropriate date. Mitch Ryder’s “Devil With the Blue Dress” medley was the song that eventually made it on the LP version of these astonishing concerts, but my mind kept coming back to this version of “Thunder Road,” available on YouTube. It’s one of my favorite songs, performed with energy and unmatched zeal.
It is not merely a song about redemption from a life of loneliness through love. In Springsteen’s hands, it’s about redemption from enervation and aimlessness through rock ‘n’ roll.
And now, for a musician ready for Social Security, it’s also a note of defiance flung against mortality in its triumphant final line: “It's a town full of losers, I'm pulling out of here to win.”