Earlier this month I attended the “The River” tour Bruce Springsteen concert date here in Phoenix. The first Springsteen concert I ever attended was 40+ years ago (yikes): Halloween night, 1975, Paramount Theater, Oakland, California. I have been a staunch fan ever since. The 1975 tour followed the release of “Born to Run,” the album that made the Boss a superstar. He landed on the covers of Time and Newsweek, an amazing achievement in the years long before the Internet when those two magazines had major cultural impact. Even with this breakthrough, Springsteen still was playing modest-sized venues like the Paramount (capacity 3000 or so).
Much has changed for the Boss on that score, and much has changed for me on many levels over these 40 years. In 1975 I was a second-year student at Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley preparing for ordination to the priesthood. For the 2016 concert our delegation represented three generations, which I found most consoling. Our granddaughters have little knowledge of Springsteen’s career so I was excited to experience their introduction to his music with them. I was also proud since—as a self-described Springsteen disciple—I take a bit of credit for encouraging and supporting their father’s allegiance to the Boss.
“The River” was released 35 years ago, and Springsteen has released a new boxed set to celebrate that milestone. The current tour has the same playlist for most of each concert. Springsteen plays every song on “The River” in the order each appeared on the album. Among those songs is one of my all-time favorites, “Hungry Heart.” The song is so familiar to Springsteen fans that Bruce has the custom of having his audience sing the first verse without him before he circles back to begin again. The song is quite typical of an approach Springsteen employs: revelation of an important life lesson presented by a narrator who fails to take the lesson to heart. In “Hungry Heart” the narrator states very clearly that each person has a need, a hunger, for meaning—especially in relationship(s). That core message is most clearly articulated (in spite of the badly fractured grammar) in the third verse:
Everybody needs a place to rest
Everybody wants to have a home
Don’t make no difference what nobody says
Ain’t nobody like to be alone
In the previous two verses the song’s narrator vividly illustrates how not to satisfy that hunger. In that he is not alone. Most of us have spent some time searching on the wrong path(s) at times in our quest to satisfy our hungers; for some that wrong path can have catastrophic impact. For others, the hunger is so ravenous that it is never satisfied. For many of us, the path to the right destination is circuitous and complex. For me, just such a complicated path has led me to a marvelous place for which I am very grateful. As the Boss and the E Street Band played for 3+ hours, I listened rejoicing in the reality that I have a place to rest, I have a home, and I am loved and far from alone.
Thanks again for the reminder, Bruce.
Until next time…