Bruce Springsteen remains the boss


Having found an unlikely home on Broadway, Bruce Springsteen is now back in the spotlight for all the right reasons.

by Gregory Wakeman in Rock & Pop

Broadway beckons for Springsteen
Broadway beckons for Springsteen

Since starting a series of intimate New York shows in 2017, Bruce Springsteen (pictured) has increasingly found himself all over the media, partly because of the transition the city is now experiencing as it emerges from lockdown.

But putting the Covid-19 crisis aside, did the great man ever really go away as a credible and inspiring rock artist, or did we simply forget about him for a while?

Bruce Springsteen is, at the time of writing, 72 years old.

Many people of Springsteen's age might find themselves in the haven of their retirement, appreciating the successes of their lives and re-evaluating their mistakes. Yet The Boss clearly still believes that he has to write, record, produce and perform the candid and vital musical compositions that sum up the nation he adores.

And we should be eternally grateful for these efforts because Bruce Springsteen remains one of the greatest rock and roll icons of our time.

The enduring Springsteen legacy

This might seem like a rather presumptive, sensationalist statement considering Springsteen's more recent musical output. However, it is impossible to argue with the facts. The New Jersey native has sold more than 64 million albums in the United States alone and over 135 million worldwide, with his work garnering 20 Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes and an Academy Award to boot.

Yes, other artists have sold more, but these accolades only tell half the story.

Springsteen has been releasing albums since 1973 and at no point have any of his songs ever felt past it or without merit. His ability to write passionately sentimental, nostalgic, poetic, uplifting and evocative songs that never divert from his American working-class roots is unique.

Of course, Springsteen is mostly remembered for the period between 1975 and 1985 when he released Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town, The River, Nebraska and Born in the U.S.A. which summarised the feelings of the nation in each recording. Singles such as Born to Run, Born in the U.S.A, Dancing In The Dark and Glory Days are now so iconic that they don't even feel like they belong to The Boss anymore.

They belong to everyone.

It would also be easy to associate Springsteen with other more hollow rock acts of the 80s whose catchy tunes came and went without leaving a mark on American or indeed international pop culture. In contrast, Springsteen's lyrics and music have always been painstakingly constructed to perfectly complement one another, creating a rich tapestry of melody and lyrics that relate to and reflect the world we live in.

Springsteen's crowd-pleasing anthems, however, often eclipse his quieter pieces with Nebraska, to take one example, consisting of a series of demos originally intended to be re-recorded with his loyal posse, the E Street Band. These songs deal with ordinary, blue-collar characters who are confronted with a challenge and a turning point in their lives and Springsteen's lo-fi approach on this album is perfectly attuned to its subject matter.

Springsteen's greatest achievement though was to be his return after 9/11.

Rumour has it that Springsteen got his inspiration to come back when he was driving around for days after the collapse of the World Trade Center and a stranger in a car stopped next to him, wound down his window and said, "We need you now." The Rising, released on 30 July 2002, almost 11 months from that fateful day in 2001 when America was attacked, went some way to helping the nation as it attempted to heal following the terrorism of 9/11.

Since then, Springsteen has not looked back and instead has continued to record and produce an album every few years (the most recent being 2020's critically acclaimed Letter to You). In addition, Magic, Working on a Dream and Wrecking Ball have also seen The Boss at his grandstanding best, whilst Devils & Dust proved itself to be a perfect soundtrack for a nation engulfed in a controversial war, while Springsteen even found time in 2006 to pay tribute to folk music legend Pete Seeger with We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.

Springsteen is often touted alongside Dylan, Presley, Young and Cobain as being a truly great American artist, though that compliment should really go without saying. It is now time to recognise his incredible longevity and the quality of his albums, which together should see The Boss outrank The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys and U2 as the definitive musical icon of the past 100 years.

And don't get me started on those live performances...

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