Tuning Out Depression: Bruce Springsteen

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I’m just around the corner to the light of day.”

     –  Bruce Springsteen, “Light of Day”

 

The music of Bruce Springsteen has been one of the few constants in my life since I was an only child glued to the TV watching MuchMusic in the mid-‘80s. Like 99% of the planet I was first exposed to The Boss with his 1984 album Born in the U.S.A. I can’t even count how many times I saw the videos for “I’m on Fire,” “Born in the U.S.A,” “Dancing in the Dark,” “Glory Days,” and “My Hometown.” The album was a juggernaut, selling an unbelievable 20 million albums to date. Along with Prince’s Purple Rain and Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Born in the U.S.A. ruled the world for a couple of years. Add in classic deeper album cuts like “Working on the Highway” and “I’m Goin’ Down” and you have an album that is absolute perfection from start to finish.

In Wayne’s World 2, Mike Myer’s titular character Wayne Campbell is flabbergasted that his girlfriend Cassandra has never heard Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive. His response is classic: “Everybody in the world has Frampton Comes Alive. If you lived in the suburbs you were issued it. It came in the mail with samples of Tide.” It’s safe to say that Wayne Campbell would react the same way if Cassandra instead said Born in the U.S.A. Bruce Springsteen’s album was, and still is, that iconic. If you collected every copy of Born in the U.S.A. it would need its own zip code.

The Boss was still a big part of my musical DNA for the remainder of the ‘80s, but then I hit high school. In 1991 grunge and alternative music exploded, so the music of an earnest, man-of-the-people troubadour from New Jersey wasn’t as hip or cool as R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden or Smashing Pumpkins. I started taking The Boss for granted for a few years. I was still aware of the music he was releasing but it didn’t resonate with me as much as it did when I was a wee lad. However, that would change with his 2002 album The Rising. After a few years of working without his E Street Band and releasing more introspective music and movie soundtrack singles, Springsteen reunited his longtime backing band for this “comeback” album. The time seemed right to give The Boss another chance. With songs like “Nothing Man,” “The Rising,” “Empty Sky,” and “Lonesome Day,” I had flashbacks to hearing The Boss as a kid. For the second time I was hooked. From that moment forward I made it a point to buy every subsequent Springsteen album and dive more into his stunning back catalogue. Very few artists or bands have released music on par with Nebraska, Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town or The River.

An added bonus to being a Springsteen fan is that one of my favourite songs, and a song that has meant so much to me since treating my depression, was a Springsteen song without me originally knowing it. In 1987, Joan Jett co-starred with Michael J. Fox in Light of Day, a drama that didn’t exactly break any box office records or impress the critics. However, the title track and video from the film got lots of airplay on MuchMusic. How could you not love Joan Jett and Marty McFly rocking out? Well, it turns out that Springsteen wrote the song for Jett, and he would eventually release a version of himself performing it live for his MTV Plugged special. I loved this song as a kid, but the simple message that things may be dark right now, but the light of day is right around the corner has especially resonated with me these last few years and has been a rallying cry for me when I’m feeling off:

     Well, I’m a little down under, but I’m keeling OK

     Got a little lost along the way

     I’m just around the corner to the light of day

     Well, I’m just around the corner to the light of day.

           – Bruce Springsteen, “Light of Day” from MTV Plugged

As I write this I am reading Springsteen’s autobiography, not surprisingly titled Born to Run. In the book and interviews promoting it, The Boss goes into detail about how he has been battling depression over the years. In particular, he reveals that he was in a really bad head space when he was writing his phenomenal 2012 album Wrecking Ball. In retrospect, I should have clued in that he might have the black dog when one of the songs on the album was titled “This Depression.” The lyrics are an open admission that he is in a low point and needs comfort and help:

Baby I’ve been down, but never this down

     I’ve been lost, but never this lost

     This is my confession

     I need your heart

     In this depression

     I need your heart

           – Bruce Springsteen, “This Depression” from Wrecking Ball

When someone called The Boss has to battle the black cloud and is open about it, it gives so many people like myself assurance and hope that things will get better. And most importantly, WE’RE NOT ALONE. I still have my good days and bad days with depression and anxiety, but I keep reminding myself that I’m just around the corner to the light of day. Thank you, Boss. He really is like the rest of us.

 

 

 

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