What The Boss means to me; an open letter to Bruce Springsteen

Mr. Bruce Springsteen,

While I can't remember the exact date, or even the year, it was shortly after my parents had divorced, and my father moved out into the country, that I first listened to Born in the U.S.A.; it was one of my father's old tapes. Now, I really wonder that I didn't wear that old tape out.

I was pre-teen, and living in northern Wisconsin, and raised Catholic, so not all of the lyrics made sense (not that I really thought about them all that much outside of remembering the exact order, so I could sing the songs by heart), so in that sense, I certainly was lacking an understanding of what they really meant.

But, they sounded really great, and I was old and smart enough to realize the few that were applicable at the time, being in 'love,' and, for the first time in that state, also having the one I really liked (for that's what it was), like me as well. They were all great songs, but some really stuck with me; "I'm On Fire," "Downbound Train," "Cover Me," "Glory Days," "Dancing In The Dark," and "My Hometown" (which I would think of many times in my near future).

Later, I would ask for, and receive, one of my first CDs, getting not Born in the U.S.A. as I asked for, but instead Greatest Hits. While it had many of the songs I had enjoyed previously, it wasn't Born in the U.S.A..

I can't recall if "The River" struck me the first time that I heard it, but it would become, and continues to be, one of my favorite songs; period. Too I was introduced to your harder side via "Murder Incorporated," and your political side (still being in the dark about "Born in the U.S.A."'s meaning) via "Streets Of Philadelphia."

As time progressed, I continued to pick up more and more of your music, as I found it. During that time, it was Live 1975-1985 that absolutely made "The River" the song that it is to me today, and perhaps also when I began to understand your music (although perhaps I could argue against that, based on the above listing of songs from Born in the U.S.A.).

As of today, I can look at the listing of albums on your official site and, with the exception of the DVDs, of which I have only one (not listed; your music videos), I can honestly say I have every one. Of all the other artists I enjoy, I can say that of none other.

As I purchase your new music, I realize that while I may not like all of it, that comes more from a lack of understanding, or experience, of what you sing about. While there are some songs that I believe instantly impart their meaning (most of those listed above, "The Fever," etcetera), there are others that require more thought and experience ("The Ghost of Tom Joad," etcetera). And through the years, I've found that little extra work to be well worth it.

While I'm young enough to have not lived through the beginning of music's greatest periods of change, I'm grateful I was at least able to live during the times of one of the greatest legends of music.

Very sincerely,

James Skemp