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Music As Our Common Breath

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

I’ve never been a fan of Bruce Springsteen. My dislike originated with two men – my college boyfriend and my ex-husband. Both were Bruce Superfans. Both pushed me towards liking an artist rather than letting my fondness unfold naturally.

My introduction to Bruce came during college just after he released three top-selling albums; Born to Run (1975), Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978), and The River (1980). I lived in the midwest with bands like Journey, Cheap Trick, and Styx in heavy rotation on my turntable. My college boyfriend, Paul, a vocal New Yorker, insisted we listen to this guy from Asbury Park. Paul talked as if he and Bruce were close friends, a common trait among Bruce fans. My midwestern-centric roots bristled against his East Coast brashness, so I was skeptical to embrace Bruce’s music.

In the years since, I’ve seen Bruce exactly once. Accompanied by my then husband, Dan, who stood just behind me, making sure I fist bumped at the appropriate points during the chorus of Born to Run. My reaction to Paul’s and Dan’s insistence was to put Bruce squarely in my ‘meh’ category of music.

Recently, in my work at local music venues, I’ve seen several Bruce cover bands, including one show performed entirely on the ukulele.

I know the words to every song.

Not because I am a Bruce fan, clearly. I know every word because there are certain songs that permeate our lives, like air. Bruce’s music is like that.

Despite the Pauls and Dans of the world, I sang along at the recent Bruce in the USA cover show. And I watched as the entire crowd pressed towards the stage, craving the connection that comes from the full-throated, fist-bumping exhalation of our common breath.

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