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My Life’s Guest Artist Is Bruce Springsteen

bruce springsteen

This morning I almost missed yoga because of Bruce. “Glory Days” was rocking the kitchen and I was dancing around in my yoga pants when my wife Monica walked in with a cup of coffee in her hand and said, “You’re going to be late.” I grabbed my keys, jumped in the car, and drove off fast with the beat in my heart and the refrain in my head: “Glory days, glory days, glory days”. Everyone else had already arrived when I got to yoga; I unrolled my mat, and sat down cross-legged just in time for the first “Om.” We took a deep breath in and let it out slow, but Bruce was still there, through a spinal twist, a downward-facing dog, right up to the final meditation.

I don’t like to sit around “talking about the old times” and I’m not a crazy Asbury Park-haunting stalker, but somehow Bruce keeps hanging around, like a cousin you don’t see much, or an old boyfriend who pops up on Facebook periodically. In August I went with Monica and my son Cody to a Saturday night baseball game followed by Springsteen fireworks. The sky lit up over the ballfield, and Bruce was singing, “roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair,” and the magic of the night welled up in my heart. Rockets exploded, sparks showered down over the diamond, and the feeling filled me up like crying.

Related: “The 10 Best Bruce Springsteen Songs You May Have Never Heard”

Just recently a friend sent me an MP3 of a tape I made with Cody in 1985 when he was just a little boy. Cody was living with his dad then, and I was visiting him in Boston. I had just sent him Born in the U.S.A., and as a result, he’d written his own lyrics for Bruce’s “My Home Town” and so we recorded this new version together. Now more than thirty years later, sitting at my desk in Providence, Rhode Island, I listened again to Cody’s high, sweet, child’s voice.

“I’m going to sing a song about Bruce to you.
I love him, this is my first song.
Bruce made a tape and my mom sent it to me,
and I heard it, and I loved it, and I sang along.
And then I wrote this song.”

Cody loved Bruce’s music. And in his own way, he was singing along. I wondered why Cody had chosen “My Home Town.” The Boston suburb where he was living then didn’t seem to me like anyone’s hometown and I certainly never thought it was Cody’s. Yet something about the song had touched his little boy heart. Then I listened to Bruce sing, “I’d sit on his lap in that big old Buick and steer as we drove through town” and I realized that for Cody the song wasn’t about the town; it was about his dad.

Related: “Reconsider Me: Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Working On A Dream'”

Bruce tells a story on the Live 1975-1985 boxed set. When he was a teenager, his hair was long, and his dad hated it. He used to say, “Wait until the Army gets you. They’ll make a man out of you.” And then Bruce got called up and had to go to the draft board for his physical. The Army didn’t take him and when his dad found out, he said just one word: “Good.”

Bruce and I are the same age, born just a few months apart, and although my long hair was never a problem for my dad, other things about me were. In 1968 I wanted to marry my high school sweetheart, but when we went to tell my folks, my dad threw him out of the house. A few months later we got married anyway. My dad signed the papers, but he wasn’t happy about it, and he never once said, “Good.”

“We went down to the river, and into the river we’d dive, oh down to the river we’d ride” is another Bruce line. I wasn’t pregnant then, like Mary, but I was nineteen, the fields were green. We were driving. And the river beckoned. It was deep, it was moving fast, there were tree branches caught in the current, and hidden rocks below, but we jumped in anyway, and swam for our lives. We wanted to live, and we did. We fought for the Revolution and almost got shot. We drove West and lived in a mountain shack. We worked in factories and panned for gold. Cody was born. We moved back East. The river was deep. The river kept moving.

Then the river changed course, as rivers do. I wasn’t nineteen anymore, and neither was he. I kissed my high school sweetheart goodbye and later I met Monica. “At night on them banks I’d lie awake, and pull her close just to feel every breath she’d take.” We lived out West. We moved back East. We took care of our old people and the old people died. Now we camp by the ocean and swim in Laura’s lake. We go to France and speak French. We take the kids to the zoo and hold babies in our arms. “There’s a beautiful river in the valley ahead,” and we’re walking there together. “I’ll wait for you. And if I fall behind, wait for me.”

All the while, there’s Bruce, still hanging around. Monica and I took Cody to see him at Fenway Park in 2003, and just last year the three of us were at Gillette Stadium to see him again. Bruce is older now, and so are we, but not too much has changed. “Glory Days” still rocks the kitchen. “Thunder Road” still makes me cry. Cody lives in his old hometown and next month his dad is coming to visit. Bruce still drives us down to the river, and we are all still singing along.

-Mare Davis

Photo Credit: 1984: Bruce Springsteen on stage performing. (Photo by LGI Stock/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

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About

Mare Davis has written lots of poems, love letters, essays, and term papers, and one dissertation. She has sung along with Phil Ochs and Holly Near, and danced in clubs to the Pointer Sisters. Today she dances to Bruce Springsteen, relaxes to Satie, and plays "Danzon #2" by Arturo Marquez every day. She reads and speaks French, studies Spanish, and practices translation. Her current project is a term paper/essay/translation/mashup on the topic of Colette’s "La Vagabonde."

5 comments on “My Life’s Guest Artist Is Bruce Springsteen

  1. This is true for me too! Thanks for sharing how your life unfolded so organically with the Boss singing along every step of the way. Love your writing!

  2. Very poignant!!

  3. Loved this! Born to Run is my Springsteen song for a few reasons: 1. The Phil Spector influence (Spector’s work is a favorite of my family) and 2. It was written for me. 😀 Or so I like to think!

  4. KLYPH STIWALD

    Mare- I remember Ken driving Cody around in the Bug till Cody fell asleep listening to Bruce Springsteen & Linda Ronstadt. Was the swollen spring river you dove in the river that caught fire? Near Council Rock? Glad you made it to shore. You & Ken tried to take me up to the cabin in which you spent a winter at 10,000 feet. But, the road proved too risky in the Bug even though it was spring. You three are survivors. Your lives have filled your hearts with the rewards only love can give. And when you think about it, in the end it’s love that counts. That’s why I smile thinking of you, Cody & Ken. Klyph

  5. Loved loved loved the essay.

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