Monday, January 21, 2013

Badlands by Bruce Springsteen

One of my friends jokingly said that Springsteen doesn’t sing his own songs in his concerts because the audience sings along. People pay big bucks to go to his shows sing in a big group like a live Karaoke band. 

Of course, I disagree with this.  Springsteen works harder on stage than most musicians, half his age.  But I didn't understand how meaningful his music really was until I heard "Badlands" at the end of a funeral service. 

Singing along to music can mean very different things to different people. Sometimes it’s nostalgia and other times it’s just loosing yourself in music through euphoric joy. You can have a song that is not that deep or meaningful and sing-along with a stadium full of people and have fun. It’s an amazing thing.  But with Bruce Springsteen, it’s more than that.

Imagine yourself at a Black Eyed Peas concert singing these lyrics along with the band:

I gotta feeling...
That tonight's gonna be a good night
That tonight's gonna be a good night
That tonight's gonna be a good, good night!
Now try to imagine singing these words along with Bruce and the E Street Band:

Lights out tonight,
trouble in the heartland.
Got a head-on collision,
smashin' in my guts, man.
I'm caught in a crossfire,
that I don't understand.
I’m not making the argument that the Black Eyed Peas are an inferior band (I did that in this earlier post). But they are doing something very different and singing along to “I Gotta Feeling,” means something different than singing along to “Badlands.”

Springsteen tells the story of a man who through struggles and hardships realizes some truths about life. The first verse talks about being in a figurative “head-on collision” and a “crossfire.” He’s fed up. He doesn’t care for the “same old played out scenes” and he wants something real. It’s the same fear and reservation that is expressed “Thunder Road,” of a life that may go to waste through inaction.

The chorus states that the sorrow and broken hearts of the past as a price that you have to pay to make these badlands, these rough times in our lives to “start treating us good.”  The second verse continues these conclusion that the protagonist has made:
Poor man wanna be rich
Rich man wanna be king
And a king ain't satisfied
Till he rules everything
These are the truths about human nature and greed. In understanding these things we realize that it’s love, faith and hope as Springsteen sings that will raise us up, not wealth.  The bridge is a stirring and proud declaration of unity and perseverance:
For the ones who had a notion,
A notion deep inside.
That it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive,
I wanna find one face that ain't looking through me,
I wanna find one place, I wanna spit in the face of these badlands.
"Badlands" symbolizes all of the people who try to keep us down and Springsteen stirs the spirit inside of us to throw those shackles aside, be glad that we’re alive and search for meaning in the relationships that truly matter.

From the first opening riff, “Badlands,” is a celebration. The guitar solos and Clarence’s incredible saxophone solo are like the ending of “Thunder Road,” extended out into one amazing feeling of liberation.

Springsteen’s music and songs like “Badlands,” hold profound spiritual meaning for people. Singing along to these songs inspires people with strength and hope.

On my desk is a memorial card for a young man who died at the age of 18. On the front is his picture and on the back is information about the young man and the memorial service. About halfway down the back is a small cross and below the cross are these lyrics:
Well, I believe in the love
that you gave me.
I believe in the faith
that could save me.
I believe in the hope and
I pray that some day,
It may raise me
above these Badlands . . .
“Badlands,” isn’t just another pop song. Bruce Springsteen is not just another rock star. To this young man’s family, his words are an expression of what made this life that is now over, meaningful.  As I sat there in the church I couldn't help but softly sing-along, closer to a prayer than a song with grace and thanksgiving.

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