God and the Boss

I seldom gush, nor am I given to great displays of emotion. Although I appreciate great accomplishments in others, I have never considered a living person a hero. Only Bruce Springsteen. An article in the newspaper yesterday described the first academic conference on the Boss’s music, held right where it all began — New Jersey. Unfortunately unable to attend, I relish the fact that others see in Springsteen what must be something like I see.

Last year at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in Boston, I picked up a copy of a new book, The Gospel according to Bruce Springsteen, by Jeffrey Symynkywicz (Westminster John Knox, 2008). I am not a fan of “Gospel according to —” books, but there is a trenchant depth of struggle with religion embedded in Bruce’s songs that transfixes me almost as much as Melville’s Moby Dick. Now, this is deeply personal with me. I don’t discuss my amazement that borders on worship of Springsteen with anyone. Coming from a decidedly blue-collar background, and having wrestled against circumstance for everything I’ve earned, including my degrees, I hear resonances of empathy throbbing through what Bruce sings. He is not an icon; he is an authentic human being. And his music is a gospel.


I haven’t read Symynkywicz’s book yet. Whenever I’ve tried to read the popular bios of the Boss I soon become frustrated at how trite they all make it sound. Having survived (barely) the Reagan-Bush era with its utter lack of sympathy for the condition of most Americans, sometimes I just need to crawl into the corner alone, slip on the headphones, and listen to Nebraska over and over again.

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