On this date in 1986, the first Bridge School Benefit Concert was held. Put together by Neil and Pegi Young, the benefits were held annually through 2016. Young got a lot of big names to play at the concert, which was acoustic. (We were there, and also attended one other when Bruce was on the bill.)
Robin Williams was, well, Robin Williams:
Bruce Springsteen brought along Nils Lofgren and Danny Federici:
And Bruce and Nils helped Neil out:
We moved into our current house in 1987. I was 34 years old. There was a huge tree in our front yard. It had been there a long time. A friend who grew up on the block said he and his friends used to play basketball using that tree ... it was never quite clear how this worked.
One morning last week, 7:00 AM, a crew showed up at our house and starting trimming the tree. Except it turned out their mission was not to trim the tree. Their mission was to remove the tree, which was sick. By the end of the day, there was no more tree.
In 2003, Joan Didion's husband of almost 40 years died. At the age of 70, she wrote about her reaction to his death in The Year of Magical Thinking. In that book, she wrote:
We are not idealized wild things. We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.
In the last paragraph of On the Road, Jack Kerouac wrote, "Nobody knows what's going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old." Kerouac was 47 when he died.
Bruce Springsteen was in his 20s when he wrote "Backstreets":
Remember all the movies, Terry, we'd go see Trying to learn to walk like the heroes we thought we had to be And after all this time, to find we're just like all the rest Stranded in the park and forced to confess To hiding on the backstreets
He recorded "I'll See You in My Dreams" when he was 70.
Randy Newman wrote "Old Man" when he was in his 20s.
Won't be no God to comfort you You taught me not to believe that lie You don't need anybody Nobody needs you Don't cry, old man, don't cry Everybody dies
Newman is still alive and is 79.
When Luis Buñuel was 70, he made Tristana. This is how I described the plot:
Fernando Rey’s Don Lope lives in a world that is crumbling … he believes in the old codes of honor because they have always benefited people like him, to the point that he thinks the codes are natural. When he takes in Catherine Deneuve’s Tristana, it’s not exactly clear what their familial relationship is, or even if there is one. But when Tristana is orphaned, Don Lope takes her in and treats her as his daughter and his wife simultaneously. In both cases, he attempts to exercise control over Tristana’s life. She escapes and falls for an artist played by Franco Nero … some years later, she returns with a tumor on her leg. Don Lope takes her in once again, the leg is amputated, and they get married in the church, so they are not sinners. But the power relationship has changed … Lope is an old man, Tristana has come into her own (she looks more like Catherine Deneuve as the film progresses).
Cyndi Lauper is the famous person whose birthday is closest to my own. I am two days older than her. She turns 70 on Thursday. Here she is on stage a couple of months ago:
Joan Baez, Chuck Berry, Bono, Roger Daltrey, Bob Dylan, Billie Eilish, Marianne Faithfull, Rob Halford, Emmylou Harris, Debbie Harry, Levon Helm, Chrissie Hynde, Etta James, Paul McCartney, Van Morrison, Youssou N'Dour, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks, Robert Plant, Prince, Bonnie Raitt, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Joe Strummer, Corin Tucker, Muddy Waters, Neil Young.
To start the new year, Rolling Stone gave us their list of the 200 Best Singers of All Time. The above 29 singers are the people on that RS list that I have seen live. A few selections follow.
Chuck Berry, backed by the Steve Miller Blues Band at the Fillmore Auditorium, was my first rock concert (1967). It was recorded for a live album:
The first time we saw Patti Smith was at a club in San Francisco in February of 1976. It was simulcast on local FM channel KSAN:
The fourth and fifth times we saw Bruce Springsteen came at Winterland in December of 1978 (it was the last month before Bill Graham closed down the old hall). The first of those two shows was also broadcast on KSAN:
Our first Prince show was at a small club in March of 1981, the Dirty Minds tour. Here's a few minutes of a show he played a week before we saw him:
And here is a clip from the last song from the last concert I attended, last March:
Today is Bruce's 73rd birthday. All week I've been posting Bruce videos on Facebook ... here they are, all in one place:
In 2006, Springsteen released We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, consisting of songs associated with Pete Seeger. The subsequent tour kicked off at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. The Backstreets website writes:
Quite an important night for Springsteen -- when's the last time he really had to prove himself to an audience? Closing out the first weekend of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, following Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, it was to a decidedly non-partisan crowd; Bruce wasn't preaching to the choir for the first time in a long time, he had a brand new band to boot, and this their first non-rehearsal show.
The Ghost of Tom Joad was a mostly-acoustic album Bruce released in 1995. Rage Against the Machine released a hard rap/rock version. In 2008, Rage guitarist Tom Morello joined Bruce and the E Street Band for an electric version. As Morello tells it, during the rehearsal, he played a very straightforward guitar solo, so none of the band was prepared for what he unleashed in front of an audience. Morello later joined the band as a temporary replacement for Steven Van Zandt on tours in 2013-4, and an electric version of "The Ghost of Tom Joad" featuring Morello's guitar finally appeared on the 2014 studio album High Hopes.
In 2012, Bruce played at the legendary Apollo Theater. It was the first full E Street Band show without Clarence Clemons, who had died less than a year before. (In what now feels inevitable, filling those Big Man shoes was Clarence's nephew, Jake Clemons, who has been with the band ever since.) Celebrity watchers can look for Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Elvis Costello in the audience. Trivia note: Bruce was 62 years old when this concert occurred.
Australia, 2017. Bruce sees a fan in the audience with a sign that reads "Missed school, in the shit now. Can I play Growin Up with you".
Still my favorite Bruce song. He's coming to liberate us, confiscate us:
In performances around 1958, the Isley Brothers would typically end their shows with a cover version of Jackie Wilson's hit "Lonely Teardrops". At one performance at the Uptown Theater in Philadelphia, lead singer Ronald Isley could see the audience standing and yelling their approval, so he extended the song by improvising a call-and-response around the words "You know you make me wanna..." "Shout!". The group developed the song further in later performances and rehearsals, using a drawn out "We-eee-ll" copied from Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman". On returning to New York City at the end of their engagement, they suggested to record producers Hugo & Luigi that they record the "Shout!" climax of the performance as a separate song. The producers agreed and suggested that the band invite friends to the recording studio to generate a party atmosphere.
The recording took place on July 29, 1959, with Hugo and Luigi choosing the studio musicians and the Isley Brothers inviting organist Herman Stephens. Released in August 1959, with the song split over both sides of the record, the single reached number 47 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the group's first chart hit, and later the brothers' first gold single on the basis of its longevity. Ronald Isley later said that church groups wrote to radio stations asking them to stop playing the record, because of its use of a traditional black gospel sound. [emphasis added]
Live on Shindig:
Arguably the most famous version of them all:
It's been more than five years, and in these troubled times, there is no guarantee there will be another ... this is the last song we saw Bruce Springsteen sing in concert: