I was a fan of Bruce Springsteen after the first time I saw him live. That was back in 1981. It was a time when the Boss could still play a couple nights at an outdoor amphitheater. Two sold out nights at an outdoor amphitheater, but things were starting to change. It was three years later when that would no longer be the case. In 1984, when the Born in the USA Tour rolled into town, it took two shows in a sold-out basketball arena to keep the customers satisfied. And then another two shows at a sold-out football stadium ten months later to seal the deal. It was thirty years ago that I became a Bruce Springsteen superfan.
I mention this because I understand that what I am about to suggest puts my opinions in a very particular light. "Born To Run" is one of the greatest songs ever written. There. I said it. Now, I will back it up. Objectively? Probably not, but this is my forum, so back up.
"There's an opera out on the turnpike," goes another tune on the same album, "there's a ballet being fought out in the alley." That's how "Born To Run" feels to me. It is epic, in that it is "a long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the history of a nation." The opening line: "In the day we sweat out in the streets of a runaway American dream," is not your standard pop song intro. Sure, there are girls and cars. Hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard. We ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines. And all the while girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors and the boys try and look so hard. Underneath, it is a song of escape. It is a song of redemption. If the lyrics didn't tell you that, the music would. The E Street Band has played this song more than any other in their voluminous catalog, and they play it with the same joyful verve today as they did back when they first recorded it almost forty years ago.
"Born To Run" sounds today like what Bruce described in the liner notes of his Greatest Hits album: "My shot at the title. A twenty-four year old kid aimin' at 'The greatest rock 'n roll record ever.'" So, you don't have to take my word for it. You can believe the guy who wrote the song.
Or maybe you can trust me that when I was out on a run this past weekend and I heard the crowd roar and the song was counted off in my earbuds, I felt like I could go another mile. Or two. Maybe it was that that same energy that I insisted on bringing into the delivery room when my son was born. The first song he ever heard in this world, it reminds me that I love my family with all the madness in my soul. And before it turns into a full-throated singalong with one long "O," we are reminded that "were gonna get to that place where we really wanna go and we'll walk in the sun."
Til then? Tramps like us, baby we were born to run. Best. Song. Ever.