Sparks Fly On E Street: Bruce Springsteen, "Factory" (1978)

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Until a severe heart attack forced him into early retirement in his 40s, my dad worked in a factory, running ball bearing machines for General Motors. Me and my mom would sometimes drive over to the factory in our huge, white 1961 Chevy Impala, waiting for his shift to be over and for him to walk through that gate. It was definitely the highlight of my day.

People who aren’t fans of Springsteen — and sometimes actual fans who just happen to not like “Factory” — talk about how Bruce’s songs can get lost in cliché…the cars, the working man, and all. But that misses the bigger picture. This quiet rumination on the working life of Douglas Springsteen is a small piece of the larger narrative, not only of workers struggling through their lives, but of the greater humanity: bearing down against future’s inertia.

Those few words, “Factory takes his hearing, factory gives him life” sums it up beautifully, with Roy’s country-tinged piano adding to the sadness.

Just a handful of years ago, when my mother was still alive, I had a conversation with her about something that had happened at my office. She sympathized, but came back with: “You know, your father never liked his job.” It’s true. And on my worst day, I’ve never had to worry about losing my hearing or perhaps a finger. On the other hand, Dad never felt like he was wasting his life. Or did he?

Up next: Streets Of Fire

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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