Reflections at the Intersection of American History, Religion, Politics, and Academic Life
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Joe Posnanski on the 40th Anniversary of "Born to Run"
One final post on the 40th anniversary of Springsteen's "Born to Run." This one comes from sportswriter and Springsteen aficionado Joe Posnaski. Here is a taste of his post:
Every time I see Bruce in concert, I wait for Born to Run. I’ve heard him do it so many times now that I know every move, every pause, every note. I know that on ‘Baby we were born to run,” he now goes a little higher on “Baby” and emphases “Born” a little more. I know that he will keep the music going for a long time before counting down into “The highway’s jammed …” I know how he will lift his arm, and how the fans will lift their arms, and how I will lift my arm. It is all as familiar as Thanksgiving dinner.
Born to Run was a dangerous song when I first heard it. Dangerous in the emotions it inspired. Dangerous in the innuendo of Wendy strapping her hands across his engines. Dangerous in the way it made me long for something more, something crazy. I can’t tell you that I became a writer because of “Born to Run,” but I can tell you I would listen to Born to Run again and again in those moments I sought courage. How many times have I heard it in my lifetime? Ten thousand? Twenty-five thousand? Some days, when I was trying to write those first stories, I would listen to it on a loop, 20 or 30 times it must have played.
The song doesn’t sound dangerous now. It sounds like an old friend. I wait for it at every Bruce concert and I look to see if Bruce — now in his 60s, no longer a tramp, no longer seeking Wendy, no longer — can bring it one more time. He always does. I wonder sometimes his inspiration. I suppose it’s partly showmanship and it’s partly his love of the stage. But to play that same song, night after night, town after town, 40 years and counting, I suspect he hears something still that keeps him running, keeps him dreaming, keeps him howling.
And that’s what I hear in Born to Run now. The kid I was, against odds and everyone’s better judgment, did try to become a writer. I know how scared he was. I know how defeated he felt. I remember how sure he was that he would fail miserably and horribly. I can see him — see myself — in that little apartment bedroom, listening to Born to Run, hunching over a spiral notebook and writing page after page of awful poetry and gimmicky short stories and pointless sports columns. Sometimes, I run across one of those old notebooks, and I cringe as I read the words but I’m also proud of that kid. He didn’t know. He was a scared and lonely rider.
I listen to Bruce sing that song now, and we’re all older, and he gets to that part, my favorite part:
“Someday girl, I don’t know when “We’re gonna get to that place where we really wanna go And we’ll walk in the sun.”
“I love that part,” I tell my own daughter, Elizabeth, who is 14. She shrugs. That’s the beauty of rock and roll. She will have her own song.