Written by Niccola Somers
When I told my friends that I was taking a class on Bruce Springsteen most of them were indifferent, assuming that it was just another one of my tactics to avoid taking "real college courses." When I told friends with whom I share similar musical tastes, they flat out said, "That sounds like the worst class ever." Like me they simply do not understand what it is that draws people to Bruce's music. At the time I signed up, I couldn't have named anyone my age who is a fan of his music. As Lester Bangs once said, "Every great work of art has two faces, one toward its own time and one toward the future, toward eternity." Do my friends and I not like Bruce's music because we can't relate it to our own generation?
The first thing I think of when I think of Bruce Springsteen is my mom punching her fist in the air and half-screaming, half-chanting the chorus of "Born in the U.S.A". Growing up, Bruce was definitely a household name, but prior to this class, if you'd asked me to name a few of his songs I would have only been able to punch my fist in the air and shout "Born in the U.S.A." Thanks to my mom I heard many of his albums growing up, but for some reason they never did anything for me; I much preferred my dad's selection of music -- Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, ZZ Top, The Allman Brothers Band, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young -- basically any classic rock music from the early 70s. One reason I took this class was that I wanted to understand why it was that I preferred my dad's music as opposed to my mom's -- and I promise it has nothing to do with liking one parent more than the other.
Starting out, I decided to do a little investigating as to why my mom loves Bruce and my dad doesn't. When I asked my mom she told me, "He just gets it." Huh? Gets what? I was hoping for a more concrete and descriptive answer, but that was all she had. Upon asking my dad why he didn't listen to Bruce he told me, "It's just not my music." Again, not what I was hoping for. I came to the assumption that different types of people enjoy different types of music, which isn't all that useful. But then I was talking to one of my mom's friends about music, the Allman Brothers in particular -- which happens to be my favorite band in the entire world -- and I was surprised to find out that she too enjoys their music. She was my mom's friend so naturally I assumed they would like the same genre of music, and by genre of music I mean Bruce Springsteen. It turns out that she loves Bruce just as much as the Allman Brothers. I didn't believe her. There was no way. I had it in my mind that you either liked my mom's music or my dad's music, you couldn't like both. I appreciated her opinion on music because of our common interest in the ABB, but how could someone with such great taste in music listen to Bruce? Suddenly it became my mission to discover what it was about Bruce's music that appealed to my mom's friend. Just as my father had done, I classified Bruce as "not my style," but now I was wondering if there was something I was missing. Maybe Bruce was my style of music and I just didn't know it...
With the course well underway I am excited to share what I have learned about Bruce. I will admit that I am still not a crazed Bruce fan like my mother, but I am learning that there is more to his style of rock and roll than I could have ever imagined. Some of my questions have been answered -- for example, I am aware that Bruce's music most definitely translates to my generation; more so than I could have ever imagined, but I still don't understand how my mom's friend can like Bruce and the ABB. This may be something I can never comprehend, but in my quest to understand I am learning that I have a thing or two to learn when it comes to classifying music. I don't know how I will feel about Bruce upon completion of the class, but I do know that I will feel differently than I did a few months ago. I have decided that Bruce may never mean the same thing as the ABB to me, but I have made it my mission to appreciate his music, and I can't wait to let you know how my appreciation has evolved thus far.
Niccola Somers is a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is currently a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she is majoring in African Languages and Literature.