When my first husband and I split up, “One Step Up” was on the radio as I drove away from the home we shared. I couldn't tell if the blur in my eyes was from all my tears or from the rain pouring down on the windshield. They blended together poetically. One big river.
I was beside-myself-sad and if a song were to be licensed for my departure, “One Step Up" was it…the soundtrack against a movie screen which in this case...was the windshield.
There was a connection made between artist and listener. Bruce was singing to me. He knew my story. Or he must have had a very similar one of his own. It was no coincidence it found me.
Ironically Scott, my Ex, was the one who tried for so many years to turn me on to Bruce Springsteen. Scott was a super fan. He played his albums incessantly. He got us front row seats to a concert I would never forget. He forgave Bruce his over jutting jaw and the occasional mysterious origins-challenged southern drawl. He was borderline obsessive—he would not deny this...come in Scott!
I resisted latching on (maybe I wanted to choose my own idols) even though, years earlier, I learned how to play “Born To Run," saxophone intro and all, on the rinky dink piano of my college sorority house. Eventually, I got all the up-tight Tridelts singing along. We went from cute little rush songs about being there for each other to “Tramps like us.” (Before I knew what the words were I thought he was singing “Tram, Slide, Gus”…whatever THAT means—A dance? A new means of transportation in San Fransisco? A secret code for his friend, Gus?)
Anyway…a Powerful song indeed. Crank it on the freeway. If there's a volume higher than 11 bring it on. For me, it’s right up there with "Maggie May."
Decades later, Bruce's memoir, is the book I took with me on my travels. Retroactively, I guess I wanted to go deeper with the man who ushered me out of that unworkable relationship. Scott should finally feel vindicated.
I enjoyed hearing about Bruce's work ethic, his respect for his fans, his band, his roots, his inner world. But what I identified with most was his commentary about the craft of writing songs—surprise surprise!—something that all songwriters, no matter how much or how little success they have, can relate to.
If you rise every day and write a song you are a songwriter. Period. Royalties, fame, hits…these things are ancillary. (Hmm… I’m not sure what that word means but it feels right. Wait…I’ll look it up…Yes!! “of secondary importance.”)
And if you ever have a chance to read Paul Zollo’s book, Songwriters on Songwriting, you’ll notice too, Serial Songwriters (The Bruce Springsteens as well as the Suzie Smiths) have creative common threads. They just manifest themselves slightly differently in different souls. I like reading about these threads because I recognize myself as part of a larger Tribe. It’s like a link to a religion I belong to. I’m confirmed.
Here are some of my favorite passages from the book:
“Get yourself a great guitar riff and you’re on your way.” Hellooooo! (I do believe a riff or motif from any instrument will do.)
“A smash feels like it was always there and as if you’ve never heard anything like it before.” Exactly!
His definition of a good songwriter…(paraphrased): Songwriters with their own voice have their own story to tell. They can draw you into a world they've created and sustain your interest with the things that obsess them” Omg, YES!!!
And about the first time he heard his song on the radio—(if you haven’t heard yours yet, perhaps someday you will, but as I said—Ancillary!): “As I stood on that corner listening to 'Spirit in the Night' through a stranger’s car window at a stoplight, I finally felt like a small piece of that glorious train. It was more than a thrill. It was all I wanted to do: find a way to honor those who’d inspired me, make my mark, have my say and hopefully inspire those who’d pick up the flag long after we were gone."
Mission accomplished Bruce.
That’s how I feel too. Relatively speaking, of course.
I'm just a little someone who shares your religion. Your mission. I’m part of your Tribe.