Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
We are defined as much by where we were raised as by our actions; James Joyce and Dante Alighieri were both exiles of their beloved—and despised—hometowns of Florence and Dublin, giving the writers an obsession which neither truly escaped. For Bruce Springsteen, it is Long Branch, New Jersey.
I should like the seminal Born to Run. It has all the things I enjoy and much that resonates: earnest, hard hitting rock songwriting; powerful vocals; swelling horns and power chords; and lyricism defined by the mundane life in the suburbs and heavily influence by Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg. But I don’t.
Part of the reason is listening to Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf too many times beforehand. Born to Run’s opening track, “Thunder Road,” sounds painfully like the titular song of that album and, as a result, bored me.
However, my dissatisfaction with what many call Springsteen’s masterpiece has less to do with the content than the feelings the album espouses: dissatisfaction, the pursuit of greatness, isolation, and emotional homelessness. Like the music, I’ve lived with these feelings too long to be thrilled by someone else expressing them. As a result, the emotional power is lost on me.
But in many ways, Born to Run expresses greatness at its most honest, with observation of the boring in-between world of your day to day and pairing it with the wonderful, overwhelming bombast and magic of poetry and music. More than that, it points to a key characteristic of great figures: spiritual homelessness.
Like the music, I’ve lived with these feelings too long to be thrilled by someone else expressing them. As a result, the emotional power is lost on me.
Dante and Joyce were exiled from their homes and had a lifelong obsession with them. More than anything they focused their efforts on understanding these beasts and recreating them in a way that accepted them as they were, rather than the literal reality of their upbringing. It is impossible to think of these two without mentioning their hometowns, where neither spent the majority of their life living. Their search for a home led to two of the greatest works of art ever.
Springsteen’s search for a home—for acceptance—led to music that filled stadiums. For that reason alone, I adore this album’s conceits, even if I don’t enjoy it viscerally.
I’m still trying to escape the scars of Silver Spring, Maryland and make a new home. I’m still looking; I’m still running.
But at least I have company on the road.
Until I love you with the madness of my soul.