Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Fade Away by Bruce Springsteen

What are we really scared of when someone breaks-up with us? Maybe it’s the loss of companionship or loosing emotional security of having a partner. Or maybe it’s the fear that somehow we will be forgotten, somehow we will fade away.



Springsteen's songs about break-ups take a mature and interesting approach to this subject. One of my favorite Springsteen songs “Bobby Jean” (which I discussed in this earlier post) is a song about a break-up but it’s more about wanting to wish the other person well than wanting them back. It’s a mature reflection on a break-up and demonstrates how someone should feel if they truly care for the one that they have just lost.

In “Fade Away,” Springsteen pleads for a relationship not through apologies or descriptions of pain and hurt. Instead he sings about understanding and his fears.

The opening is about how the girl has found another man “who does things to you that I can’t.” This reasoning for a break-up should be enough to send any man into a rage but instead, there’s a sorrowful disbelief in his words.

The organ is almost ghostly and sets up a mellow and beautiful texture for this slowly undulating melody. The background music reminisces about the good times in the relationship, which juxtaposed against these sad lyrics expresses the emotional complexity of a break-up.

The chorus is a simple plea. He just wants to know what he can say or do, not because he “wants” her back, he just doesn’t want to “fade away.”

In the second verse, he continues to validate her feelings. He knows that he has messed up and with great humility he accepts the situation. This continues in the next verse, when he expresses that he misses the good times as well. He’s not shifting blame but saying that he understands.

When he sings about not wanting to “fade away,” he is saying that he doesn’t want to be another “useless memory.” He wants their time together to mean something. He doesn’t feel like he did enough in the relationship, to feel comfortable leaving it just yet. He hopes that she will carry part of his love with her for the rest of her life.

One of the fears we have about death is that we will be forgotten. If we aren’t remembered than that somehow means that our life didn’t have any meaning. That search for meaning comes through in relationships as well.  It’s one thing to accept that we will have relationships fail in our lives.  But the idea that we will fade away, that our time in these relationships don’t have meaning reflects the loss of meaning in our lives.

We can’t ensure that people we meet in our lives will carry us with them after our time with them is over. You can never know what brief encounters in life will hold a pernament place in our hearts forever and which long, seemingly significant relationships will fade. What Springsteen captures in “Fade Away,” is a very honest and revealing look at fears that we all share but we don’t want to acknowledge.

Fears should lead us not to speculate or worry about things that we cannot know instead they should motivate us to do the best we can in our lives, in the moment. That’s all we can do. Fading away is a scary thought, but it’s doesn't reflect a loss of meaning. Just because we don’t remember someone doesn’t mean that they didn’t have an impact on our lives. If we truly care about someone, it’s not important that they remember us but that the love that we gave them helped make them a better person.  In that way, we will never fade away.

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