Do you remember that moment when music made an impact on your life? For some, music is an inescapable facet of life. It is with them in the car, as they walk down the street, it is the background noise to conversation, it is the emotional shoulder when times seem bleak, it is the introduction of a new bride and new groom and it plays it out when our time has come. Music is explicably tied to memory. Perhaps that is why I can’t listen to Bruce Springsteen without thinking of my parents.
When I was young, our family lived far down Fourth Street, almost to Fairview Cemetery. This was my parents second home and they spent many hours putting sweat equity into the property. Because of this, I was subjected to many long hours in the car. There are worse ways to spend a childhood, but for a child as restless as I was, 45 minutes in the car was unbearable. A piece of advice my father gave me was if I closed my eyes and fell asleep, the next time I would open them I would be at the place they were going. At 30 I see through his ruse now, but at six, I was none the wiser. In short, I established a ritual. After merging onto the highway, I would recline on the back seat and look upwards out of the window. Like most kids, I enjoyed finding shapes in the clouds and I would watch the power lines as though they were waves. It created a hypnotic state for me as we drove towards our destination. I remember I first paid attention to sounds coming out of the speakers. I could feel the thump of the keyboard paired with the drums and bass and the six note lick ringing brightly from the guitar. And then the voice chimed in. It sounded as though he was singing out of the side of his mouth and that fascinated me.
“In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream…”
I closed my eyes and was absorbed in the music. It is hard to imagine what my six year-old brain interpreted from these lines, but all I can say with assurance I was engrossed. “Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run.” What an odd choice of words, I thought. The thought of being born to do anything was startling to my young mind and I could not even process the depth of the meaning. Like a Rubik’s Cube, I wished to unravel this cryptic message. As the song ended, I placed my head in between the arm rest between the front seats and asked my parents. “Who was that?”
“The Boss,” my father intoned with a slight smile.
“The Boss,” I repeated and thought for a moment, “Can I hear it again?”
My dad rewound the cassette and started the track over again. This request was only good for one time before he told me to try listening to the other songs. Now this is where the memory ends. Actually this particular memory has remained buried for many years until recently when, after reading Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, I decided to go through his entire discography. But one afternoon as I was driving towards Terre Haute, taking the same roads my parents used to take when I was a kid, “Born to Run” came through the car’s speakers. Being older now, I can appreciate the desperate nature of the lyrics – that pining sense of wishing to move and not to become trapped, not necessarily by a city but by your own inability to move. I thought back to my six year-old self and wondered what it was which connected with him so profoundly, because after that point, every time that song would come through on either the radio or in the background of some store or restaurant, it would always bring a smile to my face. There is a reason the music, movies and books we love resonate with us. We identify with characters and hopefully for a moment, we can escape our own reality and be absorbed in the reality of the author’s creation. I’m still searching for the meaning of it all, but until something is discovered, I will just leave the meaning to be the time I spent with my parents on the weekends, and that perhaps I was just happy to get a glimpse in the adult world as a child and connect with my parents on the beauty of music.