Thursday, May 21, 2009

Magic? I Don't Think So!

Last week I was going to write about Bruce Springsteen’s concert here in Chicago. But then Amy Alessio contacted me about the on-line auction to benefit librarian and cancer patient Bridget Zinn. Bridget’s problems needed immediate attention, so my post on Bruce had to wait. (see previous blog)

Putting The Boss on hold might have been a good thing. I’ve had a chance to refine my thoughts and I see even more clearly now why Springsteen is as good a musician as he is. I also see why writers would do well to emulate him.

The photo to the left shows Bruce wearing a tee shirt bearing his name broken up by the word "Magic". If asked why that word applies to him, some people will say he has the magic touch when it comes to songwriting. Others will say there’s something magical in the way his music attracts people of widely varying ages. Then there are those who will refer to his concerts as magical events that live on in the memories of his fans.

There’s something to be said for all three of these views. Springsteen certainly is talented. And yes, his fans range in age from young teens to folks in their forties and fifties. As for his concerts, they’re hard to beat as pure entertainment.

But magic isn’t at the core of Springsteen’s success. What put Bruce at the top – and is keeping him there – is his commitment to the three P’s: passion, pride, and perseverance.

I was fortunate enough to catch part of Springsteen’s rehearsal prior to last week’s concert. It was an amazing performance. The music sounded great to me, but Bruce didn’t always seem satisfied. I watched him stopped the band in the middle of one song to discuss tempo with the piano player. It took two or three tries before both men were pleased with the timing. Then I saw him call a halt to talk over a guitar riff with another band member. The discussion went back and forth as chords rippled off their guitars like strands of spun sugar. In between these stops in the action, Springsteen strode back and forth across the stage listening closely to the contributions of every member of his E Street Band.

What I saw that night was a man who took pride in his work. The Boss wouldn’t relax until he and his fellow musicians were in perfect sync. Looking back on his history, I understood why.

Springsteen learned his craft young, playing guitar in several bands in the 1960’s. He had a passion for music that drove him to songwriting, but it wasn’t until 1972 that he caught his first big break when he signed with Columbia Records. His first two albums were only moderately successful sellers, and his career could have ended right there if he hadn’t had the courage to persevere. It wasn’t until 1975 that he hit the top 40 with his third album, Born to Run. After that it was all uphill for Bruce.

In the three decades between then and now, Springsteen and his E Street Band have become living legends in the field of rock music. A winner of numerous Grammy awards, he’s seen his albums go platinum and his concerts consistently sold out. None of this has been accomplished through luck or magic. Springsteen’s success is due solely to his passion, pride, and perseverance.

Previous careers, advantageous connections, or a stroke of good luck smoothed the path to publication for some writers. Most successful authors, though, can relate to Springsteen’s experience. It takes passion, pride, and perseverance to make it to the top in the book business. For those of us still climbing the ladder, those are three virtues to be nurtured.


  1. Great blog! You left out an age group still over the moon about "The Boss!" Don't leave those of us who are 60 and over out the mix - once a fan, always a fan. I have also seen him recently, and he does indeed still just rock the house. I agree, Mary, about those virtues he's in possession of. But, I think, he is also in possession of that mythical, mystical "it" that defies definition, but you know it when you see it. (and the man STILL has great buns!). :>

  2. I'm right there with you, Kaye. Like you, I'm over 60 and still love his music. And yes, he does exude that undefinable "it" that says, "This is someone special."

    As for his buns, why stop there? The man is just plain sexy! :)