Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dancing in the Dark (by Bruce Springsteen)

Springsteen wants to make a connection, but he also wants to pity himself. He gets up in the evening: All right! He is out of bed! But within seconds his depression strikes, and he ain't got nothing to say. This lifeless feeling will persist till the morning, when he can sleep again. He decides to make a change; he approaches a woman, explains that he could "use just a little help," and offers himself to her. Ah, but the fog returns: Springsteen gets lost in self-loathing, thinks obsessively about his hair and clothes, and complains that he is sick of trying to write his book. The song ends with a plea: "This gun's for hire, even if we're just dancing in the dark."

Springsteen gives us whipped cream with razors. We watch him dance in his tight jeans and his tiny shirt, and we almost forget that he is singing about despair. Life is dancing in the dark--stumbling, misunderstanding, trying, failing. I have few illusions about the outcome of this young man's evening, and I think Springsteen is similarly pessimistic. What a thrill I get from "Born in the U.S.A.," a song with a catchy chorus and a bleak, painful message. Springsteen is like a Romantic poet; he writes about one man's experience but seems to speak directly to each of his millions of fans. (Who could fail to understand the agony of "U.S.A.," Verse IV? "I had a buddy at Khe Sahn, fighting off the Viet Cong... They're still there, he's all gone.") When I hear Springsteen's early songs, I feel as if I am reading a letter from my father and uncles; I know what life seemed to offer to them, and how hard they fought to hang on to their sense of wonder and innocence.

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