In 1980, one of my older brothers changed my 14 year old life forever by introducing me to the music and message of Bruce Springsteen. Pre MTV and MuchMusic, and way pre-internet, Apple Music and Spotify, it was originally just two cassettes, one of the Boss’ new album at the time, The River, and one of a collection of some of his best songs from the Born to Run and Darkness albums that I played over and over again on my cheap cassette player with the lousy speaker. It was the best.
And then a bit later came absolute gold, a bootleg cassette of Springsteen live, songs and stories from his legendary 1978 tour. It felt wild and dangerous, bootleg concert tapes being rare contraband back then.
In concert, Springsteen connects with his audience through personal tales of dreams and experiences, one of the best stories being the one about his parents, growing up and his teenaged aspirations. The setting was a poor, working class, post WW II New Jersey neighbourhood and his parents couldn’t figure out Bruce’s infatuation with long hair, loud music and his guitar. This generation gap story ended something like this:
“So, my father always wanted me to be a lawyer, you know, get a little something for myself. And my mother, she always wanted me to be an author, write books, you know, that’s a good life, get a little something for myself. Well, what they didn’t understand was … I wanted everything. And so, Mom and Dad, one of you wanted a lawyer, one of you wanted an author. Well tonight, you are both just going to have to settle for rock and roll!”
And then the band burst in with a rocking rendition of “Growing Up”. I still get chills 40 years later.
For the Boss, being a lawyer or an author wasn’t the dream, it was just “settling”. But for others, that might be the dream - be a lawyer and fight the noble cause or be a writer and change the world with your words.
With my own parents, my father was the dreamer (“son, you look stressed, take a year off and travel the world”), while my mother was the practical one (“don’t listen to your father, stay home and save your money”).
And now, with my own teenagers and today’s younger generation, my message falls somewhere in between: dream big, be passionate, experiment, enjoy what you’re doing and work harder at it than everyone else. And, to blend the messages of Bruce and my parents: make sure you look after the ones you love and have some fun along the way, you know, have a good life, get a little something for yourself!