The Constitution Center Honors Bruce Springsteen
By PIERRE ROBERT
Born in the U.S.A.: Springsteen on tour circa 1984
I am so thrilled that the National Constitution Center is honoring The Boss, Bruce Springsteen. And it’s quite perfect that this exhibit is happening right here in Philly, the city that Bruce has so many times called ‘my home away from home.’ This city and the passionate fans who live here—along with the major airplay given by 93.3 WMMR-FM—were all instrumental in Bruce’s ascent. So many of the key players in the city’s music scene were early and enthusiastic supporters. The late, great Ed Sciaky even introduced Bruce at the old Main Point nightclub in Bryn Mawr for the legendary WMMR live concert back in 1975.
I first saw Bruce on The River tour when I still lived in San Francisco in 1980, and it was amazing. But it actually paled in comparison to seeing him here at the Spectrum a few years later, when he was touring behind Born in the U.S.A. (By the way, among many personal items displayed in the exhibit are the T-shirt and jeans he wore on that album cover, as well as the 1960 Corvette he bought after making Born to Run—how cool!) At that show, I actually thought at first that the crowd was booing—but of course, they were chanting, ‘Bruuuuce!’ I’ve seen Bruce in Philly every single time his tour has come to town, and it’s like attending a rock-’n’-roll tent revival meeting. It is a truly religious experience.
|Featured in the exhibit: Lyrics to “Born to Run” (RIGHT) and Springsteen’s Fender guitar|
Bruce spans several musical generations, as evidenced by the other musicians who regularly jam with him and the band. They include (to name just a few) John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bono of U2, and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. It’s impressive to see how many young people come out to see him. And on the last tour, at the age of 60, Bruce walked out on a platform, fell back into the masses, and crowd-surfed, singing all the way back to the stage.
Interestingly enough, on the few occasions I have met Bruce, I have found him to be friendly but also quiet, almost to the point of being shy. But he is certainly not shy about giving back to the community. At every show I have seen over the past 25 years, he has shed light on local organizations that regularly help to improve people’s lives, everything from food banks to medical clinics. This kindness shone through in another way—his writing—on The Rising. After the horrifying tragedy of 9/11, this record spoke so eloquently to the losses endured by so many on that day. Songs like “Into the Fire,” or the title track itself, poignantly portray the damage done, as well as the slow, painful, but necessary steps that needed to be taken to rebuild and to rise again from the ashes.
Like any family, the E Street Band has endured some real heartbreaking losses of its own in recent years. The first was longtime keyboard player Danny Federici, and then, just this past year, the Big Man himself, Clarence Clemons. Although they can never be replaced, the band is picking up the pieces and will carry on. We can expect a new album and tour in 2012. In the meantime, fans can get a rare and wonderful glimpse into the impact this one man from the great Garden State has had on so many people all over the world. It gives me such pleasure that this tribute is here at the National Constitution Center, in the city that was, and still is, such a vital part of the story of Bruce Springsteen. "From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen" runs from February 17 to September 3 at the National Constitution Center, 525 Arch St., 215-409-6700.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GETTY IMAGES
PHOTOGRAPHY BY OLIVIER SAMSON ARCAND (CIRQUE DU SOLEIL); CARL FOWLER (SPRINGSTEEN)