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Thesis on Bruce Springsteen


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Hello everyone, 

I hope you are doing well, especially during this period. My name is Catherine, I am 23 years old, I live in Brussels and I would like to do my thesis on Bruce Springsteen next year. The research question, still very vague, would be "Why is Bruce still relevant today", a question that leads to many doors in the end. One of you has already been kind enough to help me a bit and gave me the idea to delve into Bruce's Americanness and the universal appeal of his work. Talking with my teacher, she said "why don't you ask people why they think Bruce is still relevant today, maybe that will give you some ideas and leads". So here I am :) I also wanted to ask you if had any books or articles (academic or not) to recommend. Thanks in advance to those who will take the time to answer me. 

 

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Good luck with your thesis, Catherine.

I actually did my thesis on Bruce too! It was about the Bible teachings and Christian values in his lyrics. I wrote and submitted it right before Devils&Dust came out so quite a long time ago.

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Outside of his dedicated fans, I think Bruce’s relevance in today’s world is actually quite low, and that’s ok.  The themes of his work have become quite nostalgic (look at his output over the past 5+ years).  But that is only possible because in his prime, he wrote some damn good music and performed some damn good shows.

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It might be an interesting angle to think about why he seems more relevant and popular abroad, especially, because I think he taps into the idea of the decent, informed, engaged American citizen, one concerned about social justice and reaching out and forming a broad-based community, which could be argued to be how we outsiders would like the USA as a whole to be.

There's potential in looking into what are perceived by some, especially in the USA, to be his 'unAmerican' values. The idea that a singer should "shut up and sing" (who can both shut up And sing?) because some dislike both what is said and how it makes them feel. 

So there's a case to be made for Bruce being relevant broadly because he provokes such different responses at home and overseas: what does that tell us about his values and the social pressures and expectations in the USA and elsewhere?

Source materials will probably be online newspaper archives, even reviews of his albums and shows, to capture the immediate impressions and 'gut reactions'. I dare say you'll find plenty here to reflect upon! If specific sources spring to mind, I'll add them.

Good luck!

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Universal themes of hope, faith, love, strength, community and work 

I for one - and i know im not alone, that's some of what i get from Bruce.

He has a tonn of dedicated fans all over the world so im assuming your thesis is about us rather than the more casual fan 

I had BITUSA as a young teenager but without an older brother to give me bootlegs i only knew what was on the radio

 Now in the 21st century -  we are all internet connected but it wasn't always like that growing up at the bottom of the world where the affordable (on my meager pocket money) UK music mags took 3 months on a slow boat to get here, and my freinds were all into the (2nd) UK invasion but i have always been very fiercely pro-American (in practically every way)

Anyway anyway so (im getting to my point) see i got LINYC from the other half for Christmas the year we bought our Jeep Wrangled 

I really wanted BITUSA but we couldn't find it (becsuse i didnt even know to look for Bruce in the rock section of the record store)

And over time i was watching Badlands from MSG and i was looking at the crowd having such a great time - and i thought i want what they are having ! 

And i looked a lttle closer and listened and paid attention to the words and realised i was just like them, they were me, i was them 

Bruce makes the world a smaller more freindly more empathetic place

I had never felt a connection to any body else's music

I never beleaved those people who said music saved their life

But when your strung out on the wire and you have nothing and nobody you have Bruce ('s music) and thankfully that can be enough 

I read somewhere - probably here - someone said why Bruce connects so deeply with so many from  all over the world  is because he digs so deep for his songs and stories - so deep down into his Freehold NJ unbringing he hits ground water - and that ground water connects all the water from below all our home towns and that connect all of us

Everyone (well most every one) has a Dad, a Mum, has a home town 

No one ever ever ever and i mean no one ever never gave me empathy before, before Bruce, before i heard The Promise (from LINYC)

Its such a sad hopeless song but on reflection i got something so positive from it, i was not along, other people felt like i did

Then i had this life changing connection with the Darkness album

I think it took me so long to find that album because i had to live some real life-shit so i could really understand it 

Before Darkness i was so angry, angry like a teenage boy but i dodnt know why and i didn't have the words to even describe what i was feeling

But then because Bruce gave me empathy i am now able to give it to others 

An album that was made when i was 7 years old is still relevant to me today 

That's almost kinda sad 

But for me my self worth is tied to work and Bruce gets that

So many things i did not understand about the world Bruce has explained to me

(Im all those people on the Darkness album)

But the album that has had the biggest impact on me is the Joad album

But for a wrong turn in the road we are all those people on Joad

I consider this big coming from a life long conservative, but Bruce has made me a kinder more compassionate conservative  -

Hell !

He even got me to not only  understand the universal benefits but  then to also   support the union movement ! (I read Steinbeck- who is not on the reading list for high school in NZ)

Then I had this huge earth shattering  moment durring the 2016 river tour - listening to all the shows thanks to the Nugs downloads -listening to Bruce between songs i learnt my struggles, my dreams, my disappointments, my journey actually belonged to my parents long before they were mine when Bruce said BTR was about his parents escaping NJ for California - and then all my anger and resentment and bitterness just evaporated 

That was just huge for me, i still think about that in the middle of the night, (about my mum and dad's life and about how they were also people, someone other than just mum and dad)

I am constantly learning from Bruce in a way no teacher could ever explain 

I live on an Island(s) at the bottom of the world thousands of miles from pretty much everyone, i had never given illegal immigrants or boat people a single  thought until the D&D album 

(Some) people (not like us) think what we have is fanatical, not quite cult like, but perhaps bordering on  a religious  following, but to me its something really good, its something special, our communal fandom is an entity all of its own just like how born to run comes alive as its own entiy each and  every single time he sings it

He must be so proud of all the friendships made in his name 

My 5th favourite song is LOHAD

I watched it tonight on u tube from a WB show from Hannover

I have this theory on the basis of understanding and promoting good international relations

Bruce 101

So i see those people on LINYC who love Bruce, im just like them, yes we have a not dissimilar culture and society, but then i watch Hanover or Milan or Paris or some other place that doesn't have English as a mother tounge

They are loving Bruce also , finding a connection just like the people in NYC, just like me - we are all more alike than different 

Then i think about other foreign people who perhaps are not Bruce fans but surely we too have more in common than we are different... and the world is just a nicer place for a moment :)

 

Bruce is a home, a safe harbour for everyone who desires or needs one, saints & sinners, losers and winners we are all welcome on this train, the most popular kid at school or the misfits, doesn't matter

Ohh, yes, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls
I said, this train carries broken-hearted
This train, thieves and sweet souls departed
This train carries fools and kings
This train, all aboard

And he tells the stories of others with very little judgement, just as an observer, in 2021 that's bloody  refreshing 

And you know when he turns up the house lights and he looks out at all of us i think he thinks we are more like him than not like him too

Bruce is my light through the Darkness 

Up ahead  into the unknown he carries the touch to light my way

Of late its been a bit scary, im getting to that age where people near my age are dying, but as he says death is not the end

When all the summers have come to an end
I'll see you in my dreams
We'll meet and live and love again
I'll see you in my dreams
Yeah, up around the river bend
For death is not the end
And I'll see you in my dreams
(See) You in my dreams

 

I hope in some small way my words have helped because Bruce is more to me than just a good time with a few beers 

He is fantastically enjoyable durring good times but he is most definatly  invaluable when times get tough 

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Relevance today?

I would say his opening up on the subject of mental health is where he could be a real force for good, especially in light of the heartbreaking data that is emerging during this time of Covid.

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On 7/28/2021 at 12:47 AM, Born To Walk said:

But spellcheck it first. :rolleyes:

People are always amazed i passed School Cert English (and rather well i might just add:P) - but you could only loose so many points for bad spelling :D

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I think Bruce's relevance is timeless and therefore will always BE relevant (to those who choose to turn to it).

He has always wriiten about the human condition - mainly from a working class perspective - and for me he has taken us on a journey that we ALL (pretty much) have to travel to some degree or other! We've gone from stories of youth and love and cars through marrriage and divorce and parenthood - all with religious undertones and with many reflections of the world around us along the way and what has been going on in peoples work lives (hard times), to more recently his own mental health issues and now our own mortality.........it's ALL in there somewhere and it has been an evolution and the bare bones of those stories and emotions were relevant 100 years ago and will still be relevant in 100 years time, so for me that makes them/him relevant "today".

As Jonathan Demme put it, when he was looking for a song for his film about a character living with AIDS, "who better to turn to for a song about the human condition than Bruce Springsteen" - we ALL at some point (some of us several times over) have seen ourselves in the words of some of Bruce's songs, and many people will for generations to come if they care to indulge / seek him out........to me that's relevant, and always will be!  Good luck with your work Catherine!    

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Interestingly, Bruce never references AIDS. It could be a song about a person 'fading away' with any other illness. Clever.

He did pretty much the same thing with You're Missing.

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29 minutes ago, Promise61 said:

Interestingly, Bruce never references AIDS. It could be a song about a person 'fading away' with any other illness. Clever.

He did pretty much the same thing with You're Missing.

Yeah it was indeed very clever - it totally worked for the film but as you say it also works in a very general way (and those of us who have had to endure losing loved ones, slowly, to things like cancer it was very poignant) - from a mass appeal point of view (like You're Missing too) it's a sensible move on his part not to be specific and thus pigeon hole the empathy.

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On 7/27/2021 at 4:50 PM, Promise61 said:

Relevance today?

I would say his opening up on the subject of mental health is where he could be a real force for good, especially in light of the heartbreaking data that is emerging during this time of Covid.

That is a good catch! Here is an Springsteen related article that goes deeper into that matter:

 

From Backstreets News Archive May - May 2019

I am a longtime Backstreets reader, and I wanted to share this Rolling Stone article — about about the rise of suicide, specifically among white men in the western U.S. — because I think it's incredibly well written, and as I read it I really could not help but think of one of Bruce's new songs. Ample warning: sorry in advance for the morbidness of the contents of the article.

The story talks about the great number of men who feel isolated, work intense jobs, and deal with a turbulent family life, who have no access to mental health facilities and are surrounded by guns. It's an astonishing look at a particular group of people and a lifestyle that many of us can't fathom. 

As I was reading about these people struggling to find ways to overcome their depression, I couldn't help but think of Bruce's new song, "Hello Sunshine." Sure enough, the article specifically mentions a man in Wyoming who finds solace in that particular song and relates it to his life. 

For such a heart-wrenching article, it is encouraging to see that people from all walks of life dealing with the same things across the country can find similar meaning in some of Bruce's songs. I know Rolling Stone has published plenty of articles and notes on Bruce in recent days, but I wanted to make sure you saw this one — the Bruce mention is a quick sentence in an otherwise very long article, but it's all certainly worth a read. 
Evan Higgs

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Regarding the COVID situation, a very interesting source are his “From My Home to Yours” radio shows since April of 2020. You can read transcripts of what he has said on the first 7 shows via these links:

APRIL 8, 2020 (a tribute to the late John Prine and more)

APRIL 24, 2020 (thoughts on life during pandemic, New York songs and more)

MAY 6, 2020 (when the pandemic is over, he promises, “50,000 people will once again scream their heads off somewhere in New Jersey”)

MAY 20, 2020 (a tribute to the late Little Richard and more)

JUNE 3, 2020 (protest songs and more)

JUNE 17, 2020 (a “rock ‘n’ roll requiem” for those who have died from coronavirus)

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On 7/27/2021 at 1:40 PM, JoleBlonAlba said:

It might be an interesting angle to think about why he seems more relevant and popular abroad, especially, because I think he taps into the idea of the decent, informed, engaged American citizen, one concerned about social justice and reaching out and forming a broad-based community, which could be argued to be how we outsiders would like the USA as a whole to be.

There's potential in looking into what are perceived by some, especially in the USA, to be his 'unAmerican' values. The idea that a singer should "shut up and sing" (who can both shut up And sing?) because some dislike both what is said and how it makes them feel. 

So there's a case to be made for Bruce being relevant broadly because he provokes such different responses at home and overseas: what does that tell us about his values and the social pressures and expectations in the USA and elsewhere?

Source materials will probably be online newspaper archives, even reviews of his albums and shows, to capture the immediate impressions and 'gut reactions'. I dare say you'll find plenty here to reflect upon! If specific sources spring to mind, I'll add them.

Good luck!

Thank you so much JoleBlonAlba !

It's really a great idea, I will definitely dig into it!

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On 7/27/2021 at 2:08 PM, Daisey Jeep said:

Universal themes of hope, faith, love, strength, community and work 

I for one - and i know im not alone, that's some of what i get from Bruce.

He has a tonn of dedicated fans all over the world so im assuming your thesis is about us rather than the more casual fan 

I had BITUSA as a young teenager but without an older brother to give me bootlegs i only knew what was on the radio

 Now in the 21st century -  we are all internet connected but it wasn't always like that growing up at the bottom of the world where the affordable (on my meager pocket money) UK music mags took 3 months on a slow boat to get here, and my freinds were all into the (2nd) UK invasion but i have always been very fiercely pro-American (in practically every way)

Anyway anyway so (im getting to my point) see i got LINYC from the other half for Christmas the year we bought our Jeep Wrangled 

I really wanted BITUSA but we couldn't find it (becsuse i didnt even know to look for Bruce in the rock section of the record store)

And over time i was watching Badlands from MSG and i was looking at the crowd having such a great time - and i thought i want what they are having ! 

And i looked a lttle closer and listened and paid attention to the words and realised i was just like them, they were me, i was them 

Bruce makes the world a smaller more freindly more empathetic place

I had never felt a connection to any body else's music

I never beleaved those people who said music saved their life

But when your strung out on the wire and you have nothing and nobody you have Bruce ('s music) and thankfully that can be enough 

I read somewhere - probably here - someone said why Bruce connects so deeply with so many from  all over the world  is because he digs so deep for his songs and stories - so deep down into his Freehold NJ unbringing he hits ground water - and that ground water connects all the water from below all our home towns and that connect all of us

Everyone (well most every one) has a Dad, a Mum, has a home town 

No one ever ever ever and i mean no one ever never gave me empathy before, before Bruce, before i heard The Promise (from LINYC)

Its such a sad hopeless song but on reflection i got something so positive from it, i was not along, other people felt like i did

Then i had this life changing connection with the Darkness album

I think it took me so long to find that album because i had to live some real life-shit so i could really understand it 

Before Darkness i was so angry, angry like a teenage boy but i dodnt know why and i didn't have the words to even describe what i was feeling

But then because Bruce gave me empathy i am now able to give it to others 

An album that was made when i was 7 years old is still relevant to me today 

That's almost kinda sad 

But for me my self worth is tied to work and Bruce gets that

So many things i did not understand about the world Bruce has explained to me

(Im all those people on the Darkness album)

But the album that has had the biggest impact on me is the Joad album

But for a wrong turn in the road we are all those people on Joad

I consider this big coming from a life long conservative, but Bruce has made me a kinder more compassionate conservative  -

Hell !

He even got me to not only  understand the universal benefits but  then to also   support the union movement ! (I read Steinbeck- who is not on the reading list for high school in NZ)

Then I had this huge earth shattering  moment durring the 2016 river tour - listening to all the shows thanks to the Nugs downloads -listening to Bruce between songs i learnt my struggles, my dreams, my disappointments, my journey actually belonged to my parents long before they were mine when Bruce said BTR was about his parents escaping NJ for California - and then all my anger and resentment and bitterness just evaporated 

That was just huge for me, i still think about that in the middle of the night, (about my mum and dad's life and about how they were also people, someone other than just mum and dad)

I am constantly learning from Bruce in a way no teacher could ever explain 

I live on an Island(s) at the bottom of the world thousands of miles from pretty much everyone, i had never given illegal immigrants or boat people a single  thought until the D&D album 

(Some) people (not like us) think what we have is fanatical, not quite cult like, but perhaps bordering on  a religious  following, but to me its something really good, its something special, our communal fandom is an entity all of its own just like how born to run comes alive as its own entiy each and  every single time he sings it

He must be so proud of all the friendships made in his name 

My 5th favourite song is LOHAD

I watched it tonight on u tube from a WB show from Hannover

I have this theory on the basis of understanding and promoting good international relations

Bruce 101

So i see those people on LINYC who love Bruce, im just like them, yes we have a not dissimilar culture and society, but then i watch Hanover or Milan or Paris or some other place that doesn't have English as a mother tounge

They are loving Bruce also , finding a connection just like the people in NYC, just like me - we are all more alike than different 

Then i think about other foreign people who perhaps are not Bruce fans but surely we too have more in common than we are different... and the world is just a nicer place for a moment :)

 

Bruce is a home, a safe harbour for everyone who desires or needs one, saints & sinners, losers and winners we are all welcome on this train, the most popular kid at school or the misfits, doesn't matter

Ohh, yes, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls
I said, this train carries broken-hearted
This train, thieves and sweet souls departed
This train carries fools and kings
This train, all aboard

And he tells the stories of others with very little judgement, just as an observer, in 2021 that's bloody  refreshing 

And you know when he turns up the house lights and he looks out at all of us i think he thinks we are more like him than not like him too

Bruce is my light through the Darkness 

Up ahead  into the unknown he carries the touch to light my way

Of late its been a bit scary, im getting to that age where people near my age are dying, but as he says death is not the end

When all the summers have come to an end
I'll see you in my dreams
We'll meet and live and love again
I'll see you in my dreams
Yeah, up around the river bend
For death is not the end
And I'll see you in my dreams
(See) You in my dreams

 

I hope in some small way my words have helped because Bruce is more to me than just a good time with a few beers 

He is fantastically enjoyable durring good times but he is most definatly  invaluable when times get tough 

Thank you so much Daisey for taking the time to write all these beautiful words and for sharing with me what Bruce meant to you, really. Love from Brussel !

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On 7/27/2021 at 4:50 PM, Promise61 said:

Relevance today?

I would say his opening up on the subject of mental health is where he could be a real force for good, especially in light of the heartbreaking data that is emerging during this time of Covid.

Thank you ! 

I hadn't thought about that at all. I will definitely look into it ! 

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13 hours ago, el sergio said:

That is a good catch! Here is an Springsteen related article that goes deeper into that matter:

 

From Backstreets News Archive May - May 2019

I am a longtime Backstreets reader, and I wanted to share this Rolling Stone article — about about the rise of suicide, specifically among white men in the western U.S. — because I think it's incredibly well written, and as I read it I really could not help but think of one of Bruce's new songs. Ample warning: sorry in advance for the morbidness of the contents of the article.

The story talks about the great number of men who feel isolated, work intense jobs, and deal with a turbulent family life, who have no access to mental health facilities and are surrounded by guns. It's an astonishing look at a particular group of people and a lifestyle that many of us can't fathom. 

As I was reading about these people struggling to find ways to overcome their depression, I couldn't help but think of Bruce's new song, "Hello Sunshine." Sure enough, the article specifically mentions a man in Wyoming who finds solace in that particular song and relates it to his life. 

For such a heart-wrenching article, it is encouraging to see that people from all walks of life dealing with the same things across the country can find similar meaning in some of Bruce's songs. I know Rolling Stone has published plenty of articles and notes on Bruce in recent days, but I wanted to make sure you saw this one — the Bruce mention is a quick sentence in an otherwise very long article, but it's all certainly worth a read. 
Evan Higgs

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Regarding the COVID situation, a very interesting source are his “From My Home to Yours” radio shows since April of 2020. You can read transcripts of what he has said on the first 7 shows via these links:

APRIL 8, 2020 (a tribute to the late John Prine and more)

APRIL 24, 2020 (thoughts on life during pandemic, New York songs and more)

MAY 6, 2020 (when the pandemic is over, he promises, “50,000 people will once again scream their heads off somewhere in New Jersey”)

MAY 20, 2020 (a tribute to the late Little Richard and more)

JUNE 3, 2020 (protest songs and more)

JUNE 17, 2020 (a “rock ‘n’ roll requiem” for those who have died from coronavirus)

Thank you very much for this !!!

It looks very interesting, I'm going to watch all this ! Merci 

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34 minutes ago, RockieSteen said:

Thank you so much Daisey for taking the time to write all these beautiful words and for sharing with me what Bruce meant to you, really. Love from Brussel !

You're  very welcome

Most of these guys have heard it all before :lol:

Best of luck

And remember to keep us all in the loop how its all going :)

And stay safe 

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On 7/27/2021 at 9:24 AM, RockieSteen said:

Hello everyone, 

I hope you are doing well, especially during this period. My name is Catherine, I am 23 years old, I live in Brussels and I would like to do my thesis on Bruce Springsteen next year. The research question, still very vague, would be "Why is Bruce still relevant today", a question that leads to many doors in the end. One of you has already been kind enough to help me a bit and gave me the idea to delve into Bruce's Americanness and the universal appeal of his work. Talking with my teacher, she said "why don't you ask people why they think Bruce is still relevant today, maybe that will give you some ideas and leads". So here I am :) I also wanted to ask you if had any books or articles (academic or not) to recommend. Thanks in advance to those who will take the time to answer me. 

 

You didn't mention the subject of your course. Are doing a degree in literature, music, cultural studies, American studies?

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5 hours ago, RockieSteen said:

Thank you so much JoleBlonAlba !

It's really a great idea, I will definitely dig into it!

You are very welcome.

It looks like there are lots of helpful ideas from the community here for you to consider, research and develop, so I hope it all works out for you under the guidance of your teacher :-)

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