Anything could have happened back in 1975. I could have obsessed over Aerosmith, or Kiss, or Steely Dan, Janis Ian or Earth Wind and Fire. I liked them all, to greater or lesser degrees, but I didn’t obsess over them. Instead, I got tickets to see a guy named Bruce Springsteen, brought his new Born to Run album home, and he became Our Guy. And it’s nothing against those other musicians, and it’s certainly not something I was thinking about in 1975, but Robin and I and all of our Bruce fan friends have been extremely lucky … no one is perfect, Bruce least of all, but in his art, his career, and in most of what we know of his life, he has made us proud to be a part of his world. And that pride didn’t end in 1975, or 1985, or 2005, or 2009.
There is more to art than being decent, being someone your audience can be proud of. Much great art is made by people who are insistently indecent. A lot of it was made by musicians in the mid/late-70s. I return to that music on a regular basis.
But there is also something to be said for the long haul. Bruce Springsteen has had more than his share of immediate greatness, but he is also the one who has carried us through the good and bad of our lives for close to 40 years. Seeing him sitting next to the President and his wife, justly receiving honors for his work, it was … not like it was us up there with the President, but that our representative was up there. Doing us proud.
It was moving enough that I’ve lost the desire to be snarky, so I’ll just note that among the performers who raised the bar, special kudos to Jennifer Nettles, Eddie Vedder, and even Sting. And, of course, Jon Stewart, who really was “us” on the stage, The Bruce Fan.
I’m aware that awards ceremonies generally suck, and that the Kennedy Center Honors have neglected some great artists. But for one night, I was ready to forgive everyone for everything.
Eddie Vedder, “My City of Ruins”: