I wrote the post below back in 2011 when the Big Man, Clarence Clemens, died. And now, August 25, 2015, Born to Run is 40 years old. It was great to see Springsteen and the E Street Band sing-off Jon Stewart with the rock anthem, but it's still hard not having Clarence on the defining sax sound.
Born to Run. The song itself is exquisite poetry with a soul rousing sound. But every song on the album is extraordinary. For 3 generations now that collection of songs is a touchstone of yearning, love, and fear that touches the soul like few things can. It's often said that the music of Bach is so complex and musically deep that it reveals the mind of God, and as a singer, I agree with that. But Bruce. Bruce reveals the complexity of God's love for the strivings of humanity . . . and, clearly, his preferred groove (sorry Bach).
In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway nine,
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected,and steppin' out over the line
H-Oh, Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we're young
`Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run
Wendy let me in I wanna be your friend
I want to guard your dreams and visions
Just wrap your legs 'round these velvet rims
And strap your hands 'cross my engines
Together we could break this trap
We'll run till we drop, baby we'll never go back
H-Oh, Will you walk with me out on the wire
`Cause baby I'm just a scared and lonely rider
But I gotta know how it feels
I want to know if love is wild
Babe I want to know if love is real
Beyond the Palace hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard
Girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors
And the boys try to look so hard
The amusement park rises bold and stark
Kids are huddled on the beach in a mist
I wanna die with you Wendy on the street tonight
In an everlasting kiss
One, two, three, four!
The highway's jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive
Everybody's out on the run tonight
But there's no place left to hide
Together Wendy we can live with the sadness
I'll love you with all the madness in my soul
H-Oh, Someday girl I don't know when
We're gonna get to that place
Where we really wanna go
And we'll walk in the sun
But till then tramps like us
Baby we were born to run
The Death of the Big Man
It’s hard to lose a towering talent. My older brother was a fan of Southside Johnny and Bruce, that’s how I was introduced to the music. Born to Run then cut into my soul and touched every inch of its teen age fiber and I was cast as a fan for life.
Bruce and Clarence are both great storytellers with a love of the dramatic and the witty. Here’s a great story that Dave Marsh used at the end of his 1979 book, Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story. It's from the 1978 tour, Bruce talking to the audience in the middle of Growin' Up. He's telling about his mom & dad and their attitude toward his rock dreams.
Bruce Springteen's Concert Patter
“Anyway, one day my mom and pop, they come to me and say, ‘Bruce, it’s time to get serious with your life, This guitar thing . . .it’s okay as a hobby but you need something to fall back on.' My father, he said, “You should be a lawyer’--which I coulda used later on in my career. He says, ‘Lawyers, they run the world.’
“But my mother used to say, ‘No, no, no, he should be an author, he should write books.’ But me, I wanted to play the guitar.
“Now, my mother, she’s real Italian, and my father, he’s Irish. So they say, ‘This is a big thing. You should see the priest. Tell him we want you to be a laywer or an author. But don’t say nothin’ about that God-damn guitar.’
“So I went to the rectory. ‘Hi, Father Ray, I’m Mr. Springsteen’s son.’ I tell him. ‘I got this problem. My father, he thinks I should be a lawyer, and my mother wants me to be an author. But me, I got this guitar.”
“Father Ray says, ‘This is too big a deal for me. You got to talk to God,’ who I didn’t know too well at the time. ‘Tell him about the lawyer and the author,’ Father Ray says, ‘but don’t say nothin' about that guitar.’
“Now I was worried. Where was I gonna find God, right? So I go find Clarence—-he knows everyone. Clarence says, ‘No sweat, I know right where he is.’ So I show up at Clarence’s house in my mother’s car-—an old Nash Rambler. Clarence looks at me. He says, ‘You gonna go visit God in that? Man, he’s got like, people in Cadillacs, you know, He aint’ gonna pay attention to anybody shows up in a Nash Rambler.’ But it’s all I got.
“So we drive way out of town, and I say to Clarence, ‘Man, you sure you know where we’re goin’?’ Clarence says, ‘Sure, I just took a guy out here the other day.’ So we finally come to this little house way out in the woods. There’s music blasting out and a little hole in the door.
“I knock and this eye peeps out. I say, ‘Uh, Clarence sent me.’ So they let me in. And there’s God, behind the drums. On the bass drum it says: ‘G-O-D.’ So I said, ‘God, I got this problem. My father, he wants me to be a lawyer. And my mother, she wants me to be an author. But they just don’t understand---I got this guitar.’
“God looks at me. He says, ‘I know, I know. See, what they don’t understand is, Moses screwed up. There was supposed to be an Eleventh Commandment. Actually, Moses was so scared after ten-—it was a great show, the burning bush, the thunder, the lightening, you shoulda seen it-—he went back down the mountain. You see, what those guys don’t understand is that there was supposed to be an Eleventh Commandment. And all it said was:
LET IT ROCK!
* * *
So now the Big Man has met the Man Upstairs. And if Bruce is right, then he’s right at home, letting it rock.