Times change, but still born to run

June 3, 2012

After 40 years of listening to Bruce Springsteen I am as eager to purchase the latest album and as excited to embark on the subsequent hunt for concert tickets as I was in 1975. That was the year I purchased the 8-track tape of “Born to Run” at the old Paperback Booksmith in the New London Mall. And, just a few months after that memorable purchase, I found myself in the former New Haven Coliseum seeing Springsteen for the first time for $8.50.

Much has changed since then. Ticket prices are higher, my hair much thinner, and my list of responsibilities far longer, but as I sat in Madison Square Garden on April 6 and saw “The Boss” again take the stage, I still felt that same connection. I was with 20,000 people, yet, like four decades earlier, Springsteen was playing for me.

As a teen I identified with a voice that provided something solid and substantial in my world of domestic dysfunction and adolescent angst. I heard Springsteen through my heart, my soul, and my gut. Listening to this artist, I find myself in a dialogue, one that transcends pop music’s usual compromise with Wall Street. I am interacting with someone I can trust, who seems to know me, my family, and my community.

In 1978, at age 21, I saw Springsteen perform at the then Boston Garden during “The Darkness on the Edge of Town” tour. After an extraordinary performance, a close friend and I found ourselves in the bowels of the Garden anxiously awaiting the arrival of the guest of honor. After Springsteen had several short conversations with the media, I went up, shook his hand and began a conversation that has lasted, figuratively, a lifetime. But the uncanny thing about this interaction was as relevant today as it was then. This soon to be rock legend didn’t see himself as such. He seemed to be as engaged in our conversation as I was. And that’s the magic of Springsteen. He walks with us, not above us. Whether singing about personal relationships, immigration, or Occupy Wall Street, he continues to ask us to look more closely and deeply at the world around us, always reminding his listeners that the things that provide lasting satisfaction remain the same – self worth, family, community.

Jon Stewart wrote in a recent Rolling Stone interview with Springsteen, “It feels like this guy knows us. Maybe that’s the magic of the conversation.”

So as the years fall away, and I attend yet another Springsteen concert, I again find myself spanning a range of emotions running from solemn contemplation to extreme jubilation. I feel now as I did as a teen, this guy knows me. So why is Springsteen such a significant part of my life? It’s simple, because he seems to make me important to him.

Tom Scarpa lives in Waterford and is a 2nd Grade teacher in Ledyard. He has attended about 50 Springsteen concerts.

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