Monday, November 9, 2009

The Boss & The Preacher

Bruce Springsteen and I almost share a birthday—he was born on September 23, 1949 while I came into the world on September 24, 1958. We share another connection, too, but I’ll get to that in a little while.

Were I to give you a full accounting of my popular musical allegiances over the years you would likely suggest that I should hang my increasingly hairless head in shame.

The first musical act that I took seriously was The Monkees—and they were not even a serious musical act, at least not at their beginning. I took them so seriously that I even sent in fifty cents so that I could become a card carrying member of the Monkees Fan Club but I never received my membership credentials, probably because I put two quarters in an envelope and mailed them off so we can probably assume that they met one of three fates: (1) they arrived postage due, (2) they cut through the envelope, or (3) they were taken by some desperate postal worker who just had to have a pack of cigarettes or two cokes.

In 1973, I pieced together enough savings from my grocery store job to buy an album and, after much consideration, chose Golden’s Earring’s Moontan over Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd, which I guess means that I thought Radar Love was of a higher and more enduring quality than Gimme Three Steps, I Ain’t the One, Tuesday’s Gone, and Free Bird—for Pete’s sake, Free Bird! To my credit, I long ago foisted my copy of Moontan off on somebody (if it’s now a priceless collector’s item, I frankly don’t care) and bought a vinyl copy of Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd at a used record store in Daytona Beach.

While my friends and companions were going to concerts by such hometown (we lived only 45 minutes from Macon) heroes as The Allman Brothers and Wet Willie, I talked my parents into taking a few friends and me to a concert in Macon, too—a concert featuring Rare Earth and the Goose Creek Symphony.

I thought that Mark, Don and Mel of Grand Funk Railroad were at least on a par with Eric, Jack, and Ginger of Cream.

I know, pity the boy---sad, sad, sad.

I’m happy to report, though, that things got better as I matured. While I listen to virtually no contemporary artists, I do lend my ears regularly to some of the still living and still performing classics—Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Jimmy Buffett, and Crosby, Stills, & Nash, to name a few—and, of course, The Boss.

I’ve been to a few more concerts since my immersion in the seven or so songs that Rare Earth played in the Macon Coliseum all those years ago; Debra and I have seen Linda Ronstadt, Anne Murray, Kenny Rogers and the Oak Ridge Boys, and Gordon Lightfoot—yeah, we’re wild ones, we are.

Joshua and I saw Aerosmith in Nashville and Dylan in Augusta, although frankly Junior Brown (You’re Wanted by the Police and my Wife Thinks You’re Dead) stole the latter show. And, in one of the great concert experiences of my life, Debra and I took our then middle schooler Sara and a friend to experience—and I do mean experience—Hanson; I mean, how can you top 15,000 elementary and middle school girls screaming at the top of their lungs?

By going to see Bruce Springsteen, that’s how, which brings me back around to my other connection with The Boss, which is that on Saturday, September 12, 2009, I was for three hours just a few short yards away from the man.

My friend, church member, fellow traveler, and current Deacon Chairman Eric Stone is a huge Bruce Springsteen fan; I mean, I’m the kind of fan who owns a bunch of his albums but Eric is the kind of fan who has seen him in concert lots of times in lots of places. So I told Eric that, hey, I wouldn’t mind going to a Springsteen concert some time and the next thing I knew, we were driving from Fitzgerald to Tampa on a Saturday to watch a concert that would last from 8:00-11:00 p.m. after which we would and did drive back to Fitzgerald which meant that I got to bed around 4:00 a.m. on Sunday and had to get up to preach the next morning on Senior Adult Sunday which somehow seemed appropriate since Springsteen, who was less than two weeks from turning sixty when we saw him, had just appeared on the cover of the AARP magazine.

People told me I did a good job preaching that morning. Go figure.

We had pretty good seats, if you call the second row behind the pit where the “lucky” fans who stood in front of the stage were positioned “good,” and you do call them good, my friends, you do.

Bruce and the E Street Band walked out at 8:00 p.m. and started playing; when they hit the first notes of the first song, Badlands, it seemed that a wave swept over the crowd gathered in the Ford Amphitheatre and it also seemed that just about every person was singing along. It continued that way all the way through the concert, through Out in the Street, Spirit in the Night, The Promised Land, and Born to Run, not mention through the encore set that started with Hard Times and wound its way through Rosalita and Dancing in the Dark until they finally finished for good with Thunder Road.

I’m not much on idolizing folks and I don’t idolize Bruce Springsteen—but I do admire him. I admire his productivity—he’s still writing and recording because he still has something to say. I admire his work ethic—he and his band worked very hard the night I saw them and I understand that’s the case at every show. I admire his body of work—he has amassed quite a catalogue of songs, such a vast catalogue that he has his own channel on satellite radio. I admire his passion for what he does—it comes through in his every move and in his every word when he is on stage. I admire his attempts to help—he supports and urges his audiences to support the hunger relief efforts of the Second Harvest Food Banks.

As a preacher, I think I can learn from Springsteen; at least, he caused me to wonder.

When I am in front of my congregation, do I do admirable work? Am I still writing and speaking because I still have something to say? Am I still giving it my all every time that I go out there? Am I still developing and presenting my body of work—am I appropriately returning to the great themes that have characterized my work while still being creative? Am I still feeling and showing passion for what I do and for the One and for the ones for whom I do it? Am I helpful?

He’s The Boss. I’m A Preacher.

He shares real words that speak to real people in their real lives, and you get the idea that they receive it as good news.

I hope that I share real words that speak to real people in their real lives, too—and I hope that the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ comes through.

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