Sparks Fly On E Street: Bruce Springsteen, “Born In The U.S.A.” (1984)

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Bruce really did kind of blow up with Born In The U.S.A.. I’d just gotten out of college and was spending my first summer of true adulthood (read: lots of barbecues, beer, and time at the pool) with this album as the soundtrack. The massive amounts of radio play combined with the reach of MTV made Bruce a ubiquitous cultural presence.

Yeah, you just might hear this song anywhere, from your car to the Musak-driven speakers at the grocery store. There was this one day that I had to attend an offsite meeting (a “team-building” session…ugh, just typing that makes me cringe). During one of the many speeches, I heard somebody in the next function room playing the main riff on a piano. A lot of thoughts went through my head at that particular moment. I wondered why anybody would choose to install carpet that was this hideous. I wondered how many more of these awful meetings I’d be forced to endure during my career. I also wondered if the person playing that snippet on the piano thought about Bruce the same way that I did.

The answer to that last question is of course, no. Music serves a different purpose for every individual. I can’t really remember if I felt an odd kinship with that piano player in the next room, or if I just felt temporary relief at being transported out of that uncomfortable room for a few seconds. The latter feeling was something that would grow in importance as I got older, but I didn’t know that yet.

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