My Enduring Interest in Bruce Springsteen

I first saw Bruce Springsteen on November 21, 1978, during the Darkness on the Edge of Town tour at McGaw Hall on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus, just outside Chicago. I wasn’t what you would call a rabid fan by any means but rather someone who admired his songwriting and appreciated his commitment to putting on a good show. Even though I had read about his legendary marathon performances, I wasn’t quite prepared: reading about him just wasn’t the same as actually seeing him live. After watching him perform for a mesmerizing three plus hours, I remember feeling physically and emotionally exhausted—I can only imagine how he felt. I realized too—and with great alarm--that when I left the venue I could barely see. This blurriness lasted a good many hours. “I had gone blind at my first Bruce Springsteen concert,” I thought to myself. Not to worry. My vision returned to normal by the next morning.

I saw Springsteen again in November 1980 during The River tour. I tried to get tickets for the sold-out Born in the USA tour a few years later at Chicago’s Soldier Field, but with no luck. I had simply waited too long. Then many years went by and I didn’t see him again until The Rising tour in 2002 and 2003. After that I made sure that I attended a show every time he came to Chicago or the Chicago area. In the meantime, and being a bit of a pack rat, I kept a big file of Springsteen-related articles and bought a batch of Springsteen books; all of which came in handy when I began editing Racing in the Street: The Bruce Springsteen Reader, which Penguin published in 2004. A few subsequent Springsteen books and essays and presentations followed until now with the publication of Workingman.

What makes Springsteen so appealing? Why my enduring interest in him? For me, I think it has as much to do with his great talent as a singer, songwriter, and performer as his likeability and, especially, his innate humanity. In concert, he is soulful, compassionate, angry, funny, and just plain goofy. How can you not like someone like that? But more than this, it is his absolute commitment to community in all its forms—personal, local, national, international--that makes him stand out above the rest. His music makes us better people or, at the very least, appeals to our better selves.

Or as Springsteen himself once said, “Remember, nobody wins unless everybody wins.”

By June Skinner Sawyers, author of Workingman