by Julian Spivey
I’ve had a bad week. And, I thought the week was only going to get worse when that alarm rang at 7:20 a.m. Thursday morning for an 8 a.m. work shift (I’m the furthest thing from a morning person). But, once the key went into the ignition of my car and my wrist twisted that Pontiac on Bruce Springsteen’s The River was switching to “Hungry Heart” and through tired eyes and a sore body, from a terrible night’s sleep, I screamed – not sang, but screamed – every word. Once that ended I screamed every word to “Out in the Streets,” as well. I didn’t feel all that bad when I got to work. Music can do that to a person’s soul.
Something that I’ve realized, but not really been able to comprehend, over the last few years (maybe even going back an entire decade), is I feel differently about music than most people. The music I love is truly one of the most important things in my life, like even more important than certain family members. If you put a gun to the head of certain cousins I haven’t seen in God knows when and threatened to incinerate every copy of Springsteen’s Born to Run and told me I could only save just one I wouldn’t think twice before giving the go ahead to execute the cousin. It might make any future family reunions awkward, but at least I’d have something that I truly loved (as would millions of others). That’s the bond I have with my music. People who flat-out claim to not like music (they exist, I’ve seen a few) make my head almost explode. I don’t believe those people are capable of feeling anything, because if there isn’t at least one artist who makes you love their songs in this world you’re probably a sociopath, but then again I’m the one willing to sacrifice family for “Backstreets,” “Jungleland” and "Thunder Road."
And, it’s not really just music – but not connecting with lyrics in any way. I guess it’s understandable when much of the popular music over the last couple or three decades has relied more on the sound, rather than what these artists are saying (and popular songwriters these days don’t bother writing anything deep), but I believe it really takes connecting with lyrics to connect emotionally to a song and with the artists of your favorite songs. My favorite artists aren’t just famous millionaires who have the best jobs in the world, but really are among my best friends (who I’ve just never met) – because they have made me connect emotionally with what they’ve recorded more so than many people have face-to-face with me in my lifetime.
That’s partially why these next 45 days are so exciting for me. I’ve seen some great shows. I’ve seen all-time favorites. I’ve seen the likes of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, George Strait, Merle Haggard, Garth Brooks, Jimmy Buffett, Brian Wilson, Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July festival and The Eagles second-to-last show before Glenn Frey’s untimely death. This isn’t to brag, but to show how what’s coming up is truly unbelievable to me as the biggest music lover I’ve ever known. And, it’s something I feel I need at the moment – though it’s also something I’m always going to need.
In a span of 45 days, starting tonight, I will be seeing four Rock and Roll Hall of Famers in four different cities in three different states. Those artists are Billy Joel (Memphis), Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band (Oklahoma City), Paul McCartney (Little Rock) and Paul Simon (Tulsa). If you were going to make a Mount Rushmore of music legends that would be one that might be pretty hard to beat – and I have tickets to see all four in less than a month and a half span. I don’t get giddy and I’m giddy.
These are all artists who’ve changed my life in certain ways. Artists I can listen to and feel every word they’re saying because I’ve lived and am living the emotions in their songs. Springsteen is my all-time favorite artist and the only one of these four living legends I’ve previously seen. His music makes me want to run away. I want to be the man in “Thunder Road” or “Born to Run” who just grabs his girl, jumps in his car and drives away to a better life. I might have the girl, but the rest of it I’ll just have to live vicariously through Springsteen’s words. That’s why this music and these concerts are so damn important to me, they truly keep me going. These shows are my ‘Promised Land’ or my ‘Graceland.’ It saves me a little bit seeing my heroes – my friends – performing my favorite songs to me, as they’ve saved me time and time again on CD and vinyl and radio. I know that experience firsthand from seeing Springsteen in Kansas City in 2012. He’s speaks to a bunch of us all at once in one arena and when you’re together in person with thousands of like-minded music lovers just losing your voice to these songs in unison with your – no our – Boss you can’t help but feel you’re experiencing some sort of spiritual moment through music. That’s why Springsteen means so much to me. That’s why his fan-base is as loyal and rabid as it is – and I feel there are going to be similar moments seeing Billy Joel belt out “Piano Man” and “Only the Good Die Young” and hearing the man who I think should be this country’s poet laureate Paul Simon do “Homeward Bound” or “The Boxer” and Paul McCartney, a freakin’ Beatle is coming to Arkansas!, perform “Hey Jude” or “Let It Be.”
These aren’t just songs. They’re time capsules that will forever make you smile, make you cry, make you feel better about your life, let you escape and just plain make you understand that other people have been where you have before. How can you not feel that? How can you not love it? Embrace it? Admire the hell of it and the artists who provide this bit of soul-saving?
You don’t have to love the same music, artists and songs that I do, but find some form of music – preferably with lyrics that speak to you – that you love. Art is the greatest thing that really separates us as humans from the animals and of all of the art-forms I believe music can most save your soul. So, let it.