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Music As Our Common Breath

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

My dislike of Bruce Springsteen originated with two men – my college boyfriend and my ex-husband – both Bruce Superfans.

I attended college 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, who had in recent years released three top selling albums: Born to Run (1975), Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978), and The River (1980). Paul talked as if he and Bruce were close friends, a common trait among Bruce fans. My midwestern modesty bristled against Paul’s East Coast brashness, so I was skeptical of Bruce’s music.

In the years since, I’ve seen Bruce exactly once. It was 2009, and I was 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.

Both Paul and Dan were the sort of men who will pressure you to like an artist instead of letting your fondness unfold naturally. My reaction 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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