Who’s The Boss: Springsteen’s Magic

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Sorry Tony Danza, Bruce Springsteen is the Boss (but you still have the Tony Danza Show). Springsteen’s 58 and I’ll just say it… he rocks. And I don’t mean that like the kids mean it. I mean, this man IS rock and roll. His latest album Magic came out on October 2nd and he was featured on 60 Minutes on October 7th (you can see the 60 Minutes piece below). On 60 Minutes Springsteen describes his shows as equal parts circus, dance party, political rally, and big tent revival. But his quote might be a little misleading. This all comes from the same place; it comes from Springsteen’s search for meaning, his search for a story. When asked why he continues to do what does at the age of 58 Springsteen responds that writing music and performing “gives me meaning, gives me purpose.” And isn’t that why we listen to music, to find meaning and purpose somewhere in the stories and experiences that we somehow share with others through music?

And there is clearly purpose in Springsteen’s latest album Magic. Some critics and fans alike have had a hard time seeing this album as anything more than just a political album. I’m not saying that their isn’t a hard political bend to this album, I’m just saying that there is also something more. There are clearly times on this album when I want to raise my fist in protest, but most of the time that fist opens up, palm up, and Springsteen’s big tent revival description seems right on.

This is a complex album, it’s not just a political album or a personal album or [fill in the blank] album.None-the-less, there are moments on this album that just move me, both emotionally and physically. The first song on the album, and the first single off the album, Radio Nowhere, would make a dead man’s foot tap. And the last song on the album, the hidden track, attempts to keep the memory of a dead friend alive. The hidden track is called Terry’s Song and was written for Springsteen’s long-time assistant Terry Magovern, who died on July 30, 2007. There’s something very spiritual about this album as well, and I don’t mean that it sounds like old organ church hymns. What I mean is that almost every song on this album gives a sense of something larger. Whether Springsteen knows it or not he’s a spiritualist. In his 60 minutes interview he talks about music like a theologian talks about the spirit. When asked why he is still playing sold-out shows at his age he responds, “what else would I do,” echoing the words of Saint Peter in the Gospel of John: “where else are we gonna go?” Later on in the interview Springsteen is asked about the politics of the day that the so many of the songs on album are reacting to. In response to this he says, “We’re so intent on protecting ourselves that we will destroy the best parts of ourselves to do so.” Though he seems to speak about politics I can’t help but hear the words of Jesus from his sermon on the mount when he urges people to see the larger spiritual picture: “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

The last album that was large enough for the E Street Band to get back together for was The Rising, and that was five years ago. After writing the songs that would eventually become Magic, Springsteen asked producer Brendan O’Brien to take a listen. After listening O’Brien told Springsteen that these songs would best be served by getting the band back together. This album isn’t a particularly new sound, it’s still full of Springsteen’s blue collar voice and catchy guitar riffs, but there is something new about what Springsteen is saying on this album. In his 60 Minutes interview Springsteen says “I have the chutzpah, or whatever you want to call it, to believe that if I write a really good song about it that it’s going to make a difference, that it’s going to matter to someone.” This album is going to matter to people, whether it’s the critics or the fans, this album is going to matter to people. This is a rock and roll album, it’s political, it’s loud and there’s something spiritual about it all.

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Here are some clips of a few songs from Magic:

Radio Nowhere

Livin’ In The Future

I’ll Work For Your Love

Last To Die

Devil’s Arcade