Last night, I was finishing Steve Almond’s jarring rant Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto, when I stopped at this: “Maybe D.H. Lawrence was right. Maybe the essential American soul is “hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer.”
Maybe he was. He probably was, and if he was, he still is. Today is Bruce Springsteen’s 65th birthday, and we celebrate 65th birthdays because we equate 65th birthdays with retirement. And retirement means time. Time to travel. Time with family. Time off.
Bruce Springsteen isn’t retiring. Hell, he’s hardly been more present than he’s been for this past decade. And he doesn’t show any sign of slowing down.
In his case, 65 is but an excuse for reflection. He’s never looked away from that essential American soul, but he’s refused to accept that’s all we are, or all we can be. As he said when I saw him on the Devils and Dust tour, we all carry a hammer and a torch. You can build or you can burn. And we’re all capable of both, whether we want to admit it or not.
He’s been there. I’ve been there. You’ve been there. We all work our way through the world. I’ve long been partial to the Todd Snider lyric, “Things’ll go your way, or they won’t.” Understanding, too, that’s it’s possible to overcook a blog post like this (and I probably am), it should be noted that Springsteen at 65 is a guy who got to that place he wanted to go. He danced–and still dances–in the sun. I took a friend to his first Springsteen show in Seattle a few years ago. We were right up front. Afterward, he looked at me and said, “I just want to call my mom and tell her I love her.” Bruce knows how to use the hammer.
“He had the balls to be cornball,” Steve Van Zandt told my pal Peter Ames Carlin in 2011, “to risk being sentimental.” Which is another way of saying Bruce Springsteen gives a damn, and always has.
So here’s to sincerity over cynicism, empathy over apathy.
Happy Birthday, Bruce. Here. I made you a book.