Written by Michelle Croak
Music throughout the 21st century has become harder and harder for me to connect with. Ke$ha, Backstreet Boys and Lil' Wayne: will you find these artists on my iTunes? Absolutely. Will I listen to them? Yes. But, I certainly do not find a deep, emotional connection with this music. So, where do I find music that speaks to me? You have to go all the way back in time to someone who pre-dates my own father. Bruce Springsteen has been involved in my life for as long as I can remember. I've been to four of his concerts and his music controls my iPod. Bruce has a large influence on my life, but I am in a small minority of people from my generation who can say that honestly.
Springsteen music has been around since I can remember. My family still has vinyl records (who has those anymore?), CDs, iTunes purchases and a DVR copy of his concert in Spain. While his songs have many different interpretations, I've always felt as if he has written them for me. When going through a hard time (the college application process, a death in the family, a failing grade in an easy class), I tend to look to music for support. Bruce has always been there for me, even when everyone else turns their backs. The slow, calming lyrics and piano of "Thunder Road," the pounding drums in "Born in the USA," the inspiration behind "The Rising," the catchy tune of "Rosalita," the personality of "The Wrestler." I could go on for hours about all of the parts of Bruce's music and lyrics that I am in love with. Of course, with any great relationship come the hardships. I have gone months where I change any and all Bruce songs that come on. They become almost repulsive, like when you eat too much chocolate in one sitting. But he's always there for me in my tough times, and reminds me that I, too, can get through anything as long as I have a car and an imagination.
One part of Bruce's music that appeals to me is the connection I form with others. There is a cult-type following of Bruce, which makes you feel connected when you discuss his music with another stranger at a concert or a close friend. My parents introduced me to Bruce's music, and I have formed a strong connection with them because of it. To me, Bruce is my family and friends. He's my dad giving me advice on passing out of college. He's my mom giving me fashion and boy advice. He's one of my best friends, telling me I can get through another college day. He's my professor, trying to help me pass his class with flying colors. He is my group of friends, eating lunch in the dining hall and discussing a serious topic like we always manage to do. He is everywhere to me, and his lyrics connect to my life in numerous ways. This social capital I have formed may last until tomorrow or it may last until I die. But the fact that I reached out to others, that I connected with others about our mutual experiences, is what my connection with Bruce's music is all about.
Being enrolled in a Springsteen class at UW has certainly changed my view on his music and life, the same way you could never read your favorite book after writing a 15 page literary analysis on it. Once you look in depth on something, it changes your view on it. I am not going to hide it; I love Bruce's music and all that comes with it. Throughout my posts, you will see positive connections more often than large critiques. Bruce means everything to me, and I hope my point of view will help you make connections, no matter how small, with him too.
Michelle Croak is an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has not yet decided on a major. A social media fanatic and sports enthusiast, she has been a "Bruce fan since birth."