I recently saw the film Blinded by the Light, a movie about a young Pakistani teen in London who finds creative salvation in the music of Bruce Springsteen. It’s a lovely, uplifting film that really understands the mind-blowing phenomenon of discovering an artist who speaks to your very core.
It also made me want to dig up some old Bruce Springsteen albums and pay my respects, though I haven’t gotten around to that just yet.
Well, going from Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen isn’t exactly the sort of wild surprise I was calling for in yesterday’s post, but it will do.
‘Working On a Dream’ is the title track from Springsteen’s 2009 album, one of three great records The Boss has released over the past six years (the others being Magic and this year’s Wrecking Ball). If you go back two more years, you can throw Devils & Dust and We Shall Overcome: The Pete Seeger Sessions into the mix.
Five excellent albums in eight years, all recorded during his mid-50s to mid-60s.
My final post of the three-week Bruce Springsteen series takes us to his most recent album, 2009’s Working On a Dream. This record was released just two years after Magic but found Springsteen in a much different frame of mind.
Released the year he turned 60 and a year after the death of E-Street band member Danny Federici, Working On a Dream finds Springsteen contemplating his own mortality. But this isn’t a morbid record — on the contrary, it’s a celebratory one. On songs such as ‘Kingdom of Days’ and ‘Surprise, Surprise,’ he embraces the joys of a long life lived well.
I suppose when you’ve had a career as long, varied and successful as that of Bruce Springsteen, there comes a time when you feel like you can do anything you want.
And in Bruce’s case, on his 2009 album Working On a Dream, he decided what he wanted to do was write a song about falling in love with a supermarket checkout girl.
Being Bruce Springsteen, he wrote the most poetic song about falling in love with a supermarket checkout girl that you can imagine. He has made a living telling the tales of regular folks in florid language more worthy of a short story than a song, and this track is no exception.
Best Songs of 2009 – #9
Bruce Springsteen’s Working On a Dream was the first album I bought in 2009, way back in early February, but it’s held up pretty well. Springsteen is on a late-career run similar to that of Bob Dylan… it’s as if nobody told these old guys that they aren’t supposed to keep putting out classic albums.
Springsteen has become better and better as a lyricist over the years to the point where his songs work almost as well absent the music. But he sounds as good as ever, delivering the grand E-Street Band rock theatricality as well as softer acoustic folk touches.
As legendary a career as Bruce Springsteen has had over the 36 years he’s been recording, I believe his most successful run has been in the last four years. And when you’re talking about a rock-n-roller who turns 60 this year that’s an amazing accomplishment.
Like one of his heroes, Bob Dylan, Springsteen has somehow reinvented himself while remaining true to everything that has always made him great. There is a clear line from classics such as Born to Run and Nebraska to the provocative, inspiring albums he’s delivered since 2005 — Devils & Dust, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, Magic and now Working on a Dream.