Bruce Springsteen did not forget where he came from. And he didn’t pay too much heed to the voices around him that doubted his path. For both reasons, we should be eternally thankful.
Even with all of his riches and fame, Bruce always finds himself drawn back to those working-class roots of his New Jersey boyhood, to men and women whose hard work, and pride in that work, was taken for granted, and then cast aside in the name of progress and greed.
Then, even as the greatest of American rock and roll heroes, Bruce has gone out of his way to write and sing about that pain, even if fans and critics have told him to pipe down and forget about all this conscience stuff.
At some point after the E Street Band reunited for a tour in 1999-2000, Springsteen was faced with a fateful choice. He could have coasted on nostalgia and cranked out “Born to Run” and “Rosalita” and raked in the millions, and no one would have blamed him.
Instead, for a decade, through his 50s and early 60s, and through the deaths of long-time comrade Danny Federici and soul mate Clarence (Big Man) Clemons, Bruce has given us six records worth of new material, veering between mournful lament and defiant celebration, never staying in one stylistic place and constantly challenging his fans to go along for the ride.
And it all peaks with Wrecking Ball, Bruce’s magnificent new CD that, in time, might rank with some of his finer works, and even tops his recent material for its singular focus on loss, anger and hope in spite of all the odds.
Bruce has said many times that a constant theme in his work is the gap between the American ideal and the American reality. That, of course, led to legendary misinterpretations of some of his songs by those who see what they want to see. A certain title track from a certain 1984 album comes to mind.