If you don’t know me on a personal level yet, I should probably let you know a little something about myself at this point. I love Bruce Springsteen. A lot. I really want to give him a big hug and say thanks. Thanks for your gift of music.
I spent many of the formative years of my life (8-college) growing up in New Jersey, before that time I was cool enough to have an older sister who bought cassette tapes – and we danced to the Born in the USA album over and over. I distinctly remember the cover of that tape, and I remember the radio we had set up in the bathroom we shared until we moved out of our NJ house, that seemed to always play “Thunder Road” right before we went to bed. I married the love of my life “down the shore” as we call it, and a friend sang “If I Should Fall Behind” at our wedding. I can’t listen to “Badlands” without pumping my fist, and I can’t hear “Jersey Girl” without choking up a bit. (I know it’s actually a Tom Waits song, but I do love the Bruce version.) I’m hoping you get the picture. I love Bruce.
It’s not so much the lyrics, although they are poetry, but it’s the passion. If you ever want to feel what it feels like to be 100% ALIVE – you’ve got to go to a Bruce show. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band playing live “ruin any other concert event, because they are just so so good” according to my husband. I truly admire people who stand up for their beliefs and live them passionately, day after day after day. And Bruce does that. He leaves it all on stage. He makes me want to go out there and do good – to live my truth – to listen to my heart – to be an active participant in my life – not to let it pass me by without squeezing the juice out of every single moment.
I know I’m rambling, but stick with me here. I have a point. Maybe I’m just over tired, but it was a poignant point for me, and hopefully will be for you too.
Before last night’s show in Portland, the last show I had been to was back in New Jersey, about three years ago. Bruce was playing in the old Giants stadium before they tore it down, the dates happened to coincide with a wedding we’d be attending, and we flew back to make a big trip out of it. Like I said – I really love Bruce. And I really love Jersey – the trip was a must. I was about 8 weeks pregnant, with my first baby. I was so excited to be sharing something I loved so dearly with my little nugget. If you’ve read my book, you know that this moment even made it into the finished copy. Not long after that night, back home in Seattle, I lost that little baby. And with it, all the hopes and dreams I had for him as well. And so began my journey of trying to figure out how to take those memories, take that baby, and make him a part of me, no matter what went on to happen in my life.
Fast forward to June of 2011 when the E Street Band lost one of their oldest and dearest – The Big Man, Clarence Clemons. If you haven’t heard the way that man could play his sax…it was absolutely a breathtaking, goose bumping experience. His presence on stage and in the band and its music would be irreplaceable. I was curious leading up to last night to see and hear what the band was doing to fill that void – those shoes so big I didn’t know how one would even begin to step into them. I was wondering how Bruce would handle the acknowledgment of his best buddy Clarence, yet still create the incredibly uplifting show he always did.
After a bunch of spirited, lively tunes, the atmosphere suddenly got quiet, and I heard the first few strums of a song already deep with meaning for me – “My City of Ruins.” Bruce started to talk, and I started filming. With the devastation along the Jersey Shore after Sandy, I wanted to capture for my family this moment of recognition and grief for a place we hold dear. And as he kept talking, and as I kept listening, something sparked inside of me – I was about to get some healing I didn’t know was coming. He was not only speaking about his hometown, Asbury Park, but also his dear friend Clarence. He offered the song as a dedication to the ‘ghosts that walk beside us’ and I recognized in that moment that the ghost with me last night was my first little baby. The first of two that I never got to meet. And it was so beautiful. Bruce sang his heart out – and when he and the band reached the part towards the end “With these hands/I pray Lord/With these hands/For the Strength Lord/With these hands/For the Faith….Come on rise up/Come on rise up…” I couldn’t stop the tears from spilling over.
Later in the evening, at the very end of the night, the band played one final song – “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” which used to include a big part from Clarence Clemons. When they reached The Big Man’s part, Bruce stopped, “This is the important part” and played a video dedicated to Clarence. I looked out and saw Clarence’s nephew Jake, who has taken over sax duties, standing so reverently, obviously feeling the presence of his late uncle, the great musician. When the video was over, and Bruce gave his old friend one last farewell nod, he got back to the passion of living. He closed out the night the same way he had opened it – completely, honestly, openly in LOVE with his work, his fans, his music, his life, and the spirits that always walk among us.
In those moments, Bruce, The Boss, showed an entire audience what grief could do. Yes, we need to be silent and honor, and feel the pain of loss. But we also can find a way to hold those ‘ghosts’ in our beings, and go out there and live our lives passionately and authentically – whatever that means for us. That’s what those ghosts would want us to do. They are pushing us forward into our own lives, to be the people we were meant to be. We wouldn’t be as shiny, radiant, and beautiful as we are without those ghosts, those people, places, and babies that we’ve lost. They make us who we are.
Thanks Bruce. As always, I walk away from a your music feeling more full, more vibrant, more alive, than I did upon arrival.
Instead of showing the film I tried to take (which didn’t really come out well) please click here for a link to the grand finale from last night – Tenth Avenue Freeze Out. It is about 8 minutes long, very much worth it.