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for April 27, 2005

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He Who Walks Among Us
by Stiffy Biceptz

In mid March of this year, the Rock 'n Roll Hall Of Fame had its annual event, where a handful of luminaries and some not entirely luminary artists were inducted to the Hall. As I've said before, Stiffy Biceptz is not entirely comfortable with the thought of a hall of fame for rock music.
It seemed extra strange that a currently active and vital artist who are as hip and creative as ever would be inducted now, when it's very likely they will be rockin' for at least another decade. I speak of U2, who at this stage of their career are almost indistinguishable from their past incarnations--1987, 1991 etc. Why try to put the genie in the bottle? Let them breathe awhile longer.
Bono's acceptance speech was nothing less than what would be expected from Ireland's leading voice of poetry, music, and conscience. Full of wit, wisdom and sincerity, funny and sad, hopeful yet dark. He was greatly honored to have been inducted and was equally honored to have been introduced by Bruce Springsteen, who he clearly considers to be his American brother.
Without question, the highlight of the event was the introduction brought forward by Bruce Springsteen. For what must have been 10 minutes, but what felt like an hour (a good thing in this case) Bruce told the story of rock 'n roll through his life, his son's life and of course through U2. He spoke of its magic, its power, its reason for being and how four lads from Ireland had taken it to places it couldn't have gone without them, and that the entire world was better for it. And it's all true.
I was captivated by every syllable that Bruce uttered. In my life I cannot recall ever having heard such an extraordinary speech. Here is a man who is able to capture the essence of a human feeling or experience in a way few others have ever been able and write it down with such absolute clarity and simplicity. And he's been doing this nonstop for thirty years. When his intro was done, I wanted to stand up and scream "No, don't stop! keep talking, don't ever stop!" But instead I just sat there in awe.
Last night I watched VH1's Story Tellers featuring Bruce. He performed a solo acoustic set in an intimate theater in Red Bank NJ, right next to my home town of Little Silver. Again I was deeply moved by the stories he told about his songs, and his life. After listening to him for the entire hour, It occurred to me how irrelevant everything else in pop music was, how transient, how disposable compared to His body of work. It also occurred to me how fortunate I was to have grown up with Bruce Springsteen in my lifetime and even better, in my own backyard. To be able to claim him as my own because he lived in the town next to mine. To know that he might appear at any of the clubs I hung out at in Monmouth county, like the Stony Pony or Tradewinds or the Green Parrot. He did that a lot back in the day. He'd just show up, maybe jump on stage for a jam with whomever was playing that night, and then just leave, like anyone else. Bruce is exactly like everyone else and yet unlike anyone at all. Bruce may be the most human being that I know of.
I must confess that during my high school years and beyond, I was very ambivalent about Bruce, music-wise. For whatever reason, I never really got into him the way everyone else did. I consider Born To Run to be his weakest early album, although it clearly was his most accessible, bringing him his world wide fame and acclaim. I was far more moved by His first two albums, which I still play. I connected more with Darkness on The Edge of Town and The River, but recoiled at the sound of Born In The USA. I did see him live back in 1984 at the then-"Brendan Byrne" Arena, and it was a most extraordinary show. That was over 20 years ago. Yet during that time I still understood his greatness even if I preferred listening to something else. Anything else. Now that he's talking and performing intimate acoustic sets, I'm the adoring fan I wasn't back in 1980.
Bruce stated that the meanings of songs change as time goes on. They change meaning depending on how they are performed and even for whom they are performed. Now that I'm an adult, his words and poetry strike me with an immense force.
Bruce Springsteen is America's greatest poet of the late 20th century. With all due respect to the music, forget the music. Listen to the words. His words and his voice are the magic.
His ability is to capture the exquisite pain of living and put it into words we can all understand. The man displays no speck of righteousness, no shred of ego, no hint of arrogance. He is pure humility in the face of fame, fortune and power, which only magnifies them all. So keenly aware of his own flawed existence, he has never allowed himself to become anything beyond who he was 30 years ago living in Asbury Park: Bruce Springsteen.

©2005 Stiffy Biceptz

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.


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