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I was twenty years old 1n 1975 and living in South Philadelphia just over the border from New Jersey.

A neighborhood woman named Mary Ann said she’s going to a Bruce Show, that I ought to go along.

It wasn’t a date idea as much as it was a right of passage.

A Jersey comet was lighting up the sky and I had a chance to catch an early look.

But no, I didn’t go.

If Bruce Springsteen was set to become the next Bob Dylan by singing songs with fifty verses, I couldn’t take it.

Playing a guitar and singing a song is hard enough without trying to recite a Rock version of War and Peace. Doing a short song is more than enough.

But, like the Garden State itself, Bruce grew on me.

Maybe it was his take on his hometown, maybe his song about unrequited love? Or maybe it was seeing a guy who looked like anyone else breaking through.

He wasn’t English, didn’t wear glitter, played a normal looking telecaster, and his band stayed tight.

What’s not to like?

As the Bruce legend grew and I moved from the eastcoast back home to Oregon, I developed a bad habit. Live music concerts left me alone in my dislike for the bands playing.

Over and over the music I liked enough to see a band play left me cold. I didn’t want to add Bruce to that list.

Then I broke down and saw The Boss. It was after 9-11. The show before that tour was hailed as Rock and Roll Revival in The Church of Bruce.

That was the show I expected. Instead he payed tribute to a horrible day in America. It was all good until he added the rest of his catalogue to the concert.

Old Bruce and New Bruce created a conflict that confused my music ear.

I felt good, but I also felt bad for feeling good. Baby boomers know the feeling. Then he said the unforgivable words.

He mentioned his first wife, the one from Lake Oswego, and said, “What was I thinking?”

Jersey guy dumps band to marry woman he meets in LA? No problem except she comes from an Oregon town often seen as the place to live if you had to pick an Oregon place to settle down.

No one told Bruce to avoid knocking places when you play that state. He also missed out on the part about keeping things local and organic.

She was in LA. An actress. Bruce, tell us what you were thinking, because every Oregonian knows the truth. LO ladies are special. It takes more than a man who covers up like a dog that’s been kicked to much to bring out their best.

You shared with the audience that night. From old songs to new, you hit the mark. I was the only one leaving the building disappointed. And it wasn’t disappointment in Bruce. It was disappointment in love.

Bruce made a mistake and married the wrong lady. He made a correction when he married again. Patty knows the rock and roll road. She’s in the band. She’s from New Jersey.

I finally regained my Bruce after all the drama. He’s a dad worried about his kids alone at home. He’s a working legend still mining the world for new experiences.

Instead of kicking back and going through the motions like too many farewell touring bands, he keeps the flame lit.

Call his music Dad-rock, butt-rock, folk-rock, or Jersey-rock, just know he’s an American voice that’s never going away.

If you don’t believe that, try naming another Rock God who openly pays tribute to Woody Guthrie, who delivers his songs on acoustic and electric with equal effect, band or solo.

He’s not Paul Simon, or Jon Bon Jovi, or anyone else from east of the Mississippi who straps on a guitar and changes the world.

As a voice of America, he’s got a good ear. Ronald Reagan asked to use Born To Run as a campaign song. Bruce said no, and we call still hear the song without the extra baggage.

What other artist welcomes fans howling their name? “BRUUUUUUCE,” is always right on time.

What other time can you yell something meaningful from the top row?

“FREE BIRD” isn’t in the same category.

About David Gillaspie
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