When I was probably 12 years old, I started to spend the money I earned doing little odd jobs on records. I had memories of growing up listening to the "Born In The USA" record in my Dad's truck a few years earlier. It was the one thing, besides Baseball, that we could always agree on and talk about.
That summer, over the course of two days, I brought home two used records by Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band: "The River" and "Darkness On The Edge Of Town." I probably bought them, in a way, to try desperately to somehow be closer to my Dad, who was drifting further and further away. The kicker is: It brought me closer to Knowing Myself than anything else I'd ever come across. Both records were an absolute game changer for me. I sat there, headphones on, mesmerized by the vivid imagery of an America I longed for in my heart; a place where men found meaning through faith and work and wore their hearts on their sleeves.
Springsteen's music whispered "strap on your boots, keep fighting for what you believe in, the magic is gonna find you, you're gonna be alright." It made me realize that you could strip away the layers of the fashion show and be vulnerable and honest, that you could pour your own heart and story into the music and it would be better for it. It was like a sonic salvation or a rock n' roll baptism, peppered with acoustic heartache and the kind of raw sincerity that was so lacking in the pop music I heard on the radio. It sounds ridiculous, but those records were also a revelation because they helped me to begin to understand that it was possible to use music to navigate through the dark spaces of my own life until that sacred light emerged emerge and the healing waters soothed me. It was church for me.
There were many years after that, listening to punk rock or God Knows what else, that I was too cool to admit to liking the E Street Band. But no matter where I've been in my life, no matter what I was struggling with or evolving into becoming, I could always throw my headphones on and find my way back to Church to Feel The Real.
And the older I get, the more it means..