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The Friday Morning Listen: Bruce Springsteen – Lucky Town

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"I got a new suit of clothes a pretty red rose/And a woman I can call my friend"

Why? Why music? Why the listening? Why the need to discuss it? To share it? This is something I've spent many hours thinking about, as the source of the impetus has always been hidden. What's true is that I can no more stop listening than give up on breathing. As I've gotten older though, just a little bit of the mystery has revealed itself, and it has to do with love. Specifically, the need to love, be loved, and to share what feels important.

Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse is fond of saying that food is love. I can't dispute that, but I can add to it: music is love, too. While the discovery of new music has it's charms, that experience fades when compared to the warm joy of the shared experience. There's a woman in my life who I can call my friend and she'll confirm this statement.

"We said we'd walk together baby come what may/That come the twilight should we lose our way/If as we're walking a hand should slip free/I'll wait for you/And should I fall behind/Wait for me"

Of course, we can't spend our entire lives sitting in the listening chair. The rest of the world awaits us and, if we're lucky, there'll be people to share it with. Treat them right and the bonds that form will serve as buffers against the difficulties that are sure to follow. It's such a simple concept, and yet I'm often amazed at the lack of respect and dignity missing from human relations. In my darker moments, I fear that small-mindedness and abject ignorance have pushed hope and faith across the border for good.

"Well now on a summer night in a dusky room/Come a little piece of the Lord's undying light/Crying like he swallowed the fiery moon/In his mother's arms it was all the beauty I could take"

I've never had any children, and never will. It's just something that has never appealed to me. In fact, I used to have a hard time understanding the attraction. But a few years ago, some close friends of mine had their first child. When I saw the look in my friend's eyes as he gazed into the face of his infant daughter, well…I finally understood. It was a powerful thing, something that in my mind was reserved for the beauty of art and music.

"Tonight I'm drinkin' in the forgiveness/This life provides/The scars we carry remain but the pain slips away it seems"

The pain of everyday existence can inflict permanent wounds. On the other hand, the parts of life worth living hopefully allow healing. People use music for all sorts of reasons, from pure entertainment to coping mechanism. My tendency/want/need to evangelize it is not related to the Internet pedant's soapbox. I'm trying to make connections with my fellow man. It's a way of building those bonds, one song at a time.

Is this going to make our lives better? Will humanity's suffering be reduced? I happen to believe so, but yes, it does take a leap of faith.

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About Mark Saleski

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    The joy of music… that’s why we’re all here in this section. I’d almost forgotten. Cheers, Mark. One of the finest salvos in this finest of series.

  • http://www.joyrides4shutins.typepad.com Peter

    Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://daslob.blogspot.com/ Pico

    Words to the wise. Great job, Mark.

  • http://www.butterflyfiction.com/journal/ Connie Phillips

    This is wonderful, Mark. Thanks for reminding us what it’s all about with this Friday Morning Listen.

  • http://blogcritics.org/ Phillip Winn

    Beautifully written! Marvelous reflections on a great album and a rich life. Thank you.

  • http://www.lookoutforhope.com Tom Johnson

    Awesome, Mark, one of your best pieces.

    To take it a step further, I like discussing music not just to share it but also to find that there are others out there who are like-minded, even if we aren’t into the same music. I just like knowing that there are others who feel the same pull from it that I do – even better when they happen to find the same types of things pull them the same way, but I’m happy just to find others for whom music is a focus rather than business, sports, whatever. But music is so often deemed a childish, pointless pursuit. I actually witnessed a coworker walk away simply because we were talking about music! He walked up, asked what we were talking about, and when he found out, he just shook his head dismissively and walked off. It was truly stunning. I wish I knew why it was okay to be passionate about sports or, to a lesser extent, movies but not about music, why music it’s childish to be passionate about. It saddens me to know that people feel that.

  • Mark Saleski

    thanks tom (actually, thanks everybody!). yea, when people have that “it’s just music” attitude, i try not to hold it against them (and sometimes fail).

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    Interesting thoughts, Tom. TWTWIM does not share my passion for music, but finds the passion I have something of an attractive quality. She understands the passion because she feel the the same way about other things.

  • JC Mosquito

    Thanx, Mark. I thought this read like the prose equivalent of Lou Reed’s Rock ‘n’ Roll: “You could dance to the rock ‘n’ roll station / And it was all right.” A revelation of sorts.

  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    Yup, I’ll agree, I think it is one of Mark’s best. I agree too with what Tom said – it IS sad when other’s can’t understand why music is so important to so many.

    I’d bet that those that claim it’s trivial, are saying it because though they may actually feel the passion that the rest of us feel, they just don’t know how to understand or explain that passion.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Wow. That was just a great read Mark. Short and to the point — a perfect example of how “less” is often “more” when writing about this music we love so much. Using Bruce’s words (from an album considered by many to be one of his “minor” works no less — personally I think it’s grown into a really fine record as it, and we, have aged), to state simply how the power of music moves us emotionally was just a joy to read.

    Nicely done Mark. You may just have something there with this “writing thing”.

    -Glen

    P.S. And watch out for the mosquito…I hear he has quite the bite himself (some advance hype for my man VH there).

  • http://www.wingsforwheels.net Dave Lifton

    Excellent piece about a highly underrated album.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Music is over-rated. Your writing isn’t. Great job as usual.

  • eddie

    The guitar on Living Proof is awesome!

  • Eric Olsen

    so sweet and powerful Mark – you have grown into one of the surest, deepest writers on music around, anywhere

  • twist

    good read, shame was longer,

  • Vern Halen

    Great, Glen – hype to live up to. Back to the edit room. :)

  • JC Mosquito

    Geez – I’m gonna have to change all my tags now.

    As to whether Lucky Town is underrated – I wish he would have taken the best tracks from that and combined them with the best from Human Touch. I don’t know if that would have resulted in a classic album, but at least all the decent tracks would’ve been in one place.

  • http://www.thesonginmyheadtoday.blogspot.com Holly Hughes

    Nice piece,Mark — lovely reflections. I find the most important friendships I’ve had in my life have always been ones shared over music.

    I know a woman who says she doesn’t trust music because she thinks it’s trying to seduce her. (I should add that she’s a fairly serious Christian convert.) She’s right, of course. It’s just that I don’t think that’s a BAD thing.

    Now here’s the big question — is it possible to find happiness with someone who doesn’t share your musical taste? Even if he/she likes music…if you’re a Kinks fan, for example, and he/she only likes the Grateful Dead. Hypothetically speaking, of course…

  • ardee

    Great essay. This is an album I didn’t fully appreciate until I reached my 40’s. Obviously the themes are mature and I needed to get there.

    As a side note I shocked that the NYPD Bruce haters haven’t over run these comments yet!

  • JC Mosquito

    Aww…. I was hoping no one would bring that up.

    I quit reading that thread altogether when it drove right past the stop where all things irrelevant get off. So – did anyone actually mention if the song was any good? I happen to think it’s not a particularly well written song – it’s fairly tuneless, and not particularly well executed. The only dynamics provided are when the E Streeters keep piling up the instruments til they’re all hammering away at the forgettable chord change and supporting that forgettable melody line til near the end when the go back to the intro. And hey – doesn’t anybody sing harmony parts in that band? The unison singing sounds like they had a contest and pulled the best six from the audience. And it’s long (clocking in at nearly 9 minutes) – not that there’s necessarily a problem with that, but Bruce has longer songs, all of which are more interesting than this one.

    It’s always about the song the song the SONG – I don’t care what political point he made. You know, for a great example of Bruce doing an EXCELLENT job of commenting on a tragedy, track down his Three Mile Island fantasy Roulette on the Tracks box. God love ‘im – that song sounds like the nuclear plant is ready to glow & blow right behind the lot of them as the band deperately plays for its collective life. And Bruce’s hastily spoken last verse (“But they had other Plans!”) is the voice of Mr. Ordinary American whose world just fell apart.

    Maybe the heart of the matter is that on some subconscious level, people are choked with American Skin because Bruce didn’t write a better song. Well, you can’t hit a home run every time, or even a single. A good batter might hit .300 in a season – than means he blows it 7 times out of 10. If only our best songwriters hammered home the hits just as often.

    Skeeter.

  • C. Hudson

    Bruce Springsteen is a talentless socialist.

  • ardee

    C.Hudson is saying more about himself/herself than about Mr. Springsteen.

    First to say that he is talentless goes against all common sense. Love his music or hate it there is no denying that he is very talented at the music HE chooses to perform. His lyrics are well thought out and make a statement. If you doubt this watch the Storytellers dvd and see just how intelligent he is and hear the different shadings of meaning in some of his songs. I agree that if you are a big fan of American Idol you probably wouldn’t like challenging music like Bruce’s.

    Second to say he is a socialist warrents a big “so what?”. I would disagree that he is a socialist but if he was what difference does that make about his art. If anything I would say that his life’s work is more informed by his Catholic education than by socialism. Of course bigots would probably hold that against him as well.

    Baically what C.Hudson is saying is that “I don’t like his politics so therefore he sucks”. There is just nothing useful about a statement like this. Please don’t add comments again until you have something intelligent to say.