Lessons I Learned from "The Boss"

Being raised on Springsteen smells like nachos and hot dogs and the beer that the lady behind you spilled. It smells like chips and onion dip in a lawn chair in the Gillette Stadium parking lot four hours before the show. It smells like the cologne and perfume of people more than double your age coming at you from all angles. It smells like the sweat of strangers that you swayed back and forth with to the sound of a harmonica.

Being raised on Springsteen sounds like the Athletic Director of your school promising he won’t tell the school why you’re late to school the next day. It sounds like apologizing to your friends in the backseat of your father’s car on the way to the school dance because he won’t change the radio from E Street to Kiss 108. It sounds like your father singing Springsteen songs to you when you had a nightmare and couldn’t sleep.

Being raised on Springsteen feels like the bass of a speaker running through your ten-year-old body as you sleep seven rows from the stage at your first Springsteen show. It feels like the proud smile on your face when telling adults you’ve seen Bruce live more times than they have. It feels like a raspy throat as you try to give a presentation in school the next day. It feels like hours in the car trying to leave Gillette Stadium after Bruce’s longest recorded show. It feels like Emack & Bolio’s Ice Cream dripping down your hand at 11:30pm as you wait in North Station for the train to come.

Being raised on Springsteen looks like your father running from the bathroom down the aisle stairs so he doesn’t miss anything. It looks like your father’s impatient face as you stand in line trying to decide which t-shirt you want. It looks like knowing more members of the E Street band than artists on Billboard’s Top 100. But most importantly, being raised on Springsteen looks like your father turning Springsteen lyrics into teachable moments—every life lesson, every lecture, every motivational speech sounded just a little too much like the lyrics to tracks you’ve heard countless times before.


In my nineteen short years, I have learned more from three-minute records than I ever learned in school. Here’s some of the best things Bruce Springsteen, and consequently my father, has taught me

1. Sometimes you find the answer you most need in the place you’ll least expect it:

I took month-long vacations in the stratosphere/  And you know it’s really hard to hold your breath/  I swear I lost everything I ever loved or feared/ I was the cosmic kid in full costume dress/ Well, my feet they finally took root in the earth/  But I got me a nice little place in the stars/  And I swear I found the key to the universe in the engine/  Of an old parked car (Growin’ Up)

2. You can’t let bumps in the road stop you from getting to where you’re going:

He was blinded by the light, cut loose like a deuce/ Another runner in the night, blinded by the light/ Mama always told me not to look into the sights of the sun/ Oh, but Mama, that’s where the fun is (Blinded by the Light)

Disclaimer: Yes, I know that this is the most successful song Bruce has ever written even though the success came from someone else’s recording of it. If I had a dollar for every time my father told me that…

3. It is more important than anything else to be yourself, unapologetically:

When I’m out in the street, I walk the way I wanna walk/ When I’m out in the street, I talk the way I wanna talk/ Baby, out in the street I don’t feel sad or blue (Out in the Street)

4. You have to love yourself first:

It’s a sad man my friend who’s living in his own skin/ And can’t stand the company/ Every fool’s got a reason for feelin’ sorry got himself (Better Days)

5. Sometimes it’s okay not be okay:

It’s raining’ but there ain’t a cloud in the sky/ Musta been a tear from your eye/ Everything’ll be okay/ Funny thought I felt a sweet summer breeze/ Musta been you sighin’ so deep/ Don’t worry we’re gonna find a way/ I’m waiting, waitin’ on a sunny day/ Gonna chase the clouds away (Waitin’ on a Sunny Day)

6. Bruce Springsteen gave me the words to explain my bipolar depression to my father:

Sometimes mister I feel sunny and wild…/ Then dark clouds come rolling by/ Two faces have I (Two Faces)

7. And the words to tell my family how much they mean to me, even if sometimes I can’t say it:

Well they built the titanic to be one of a kind/ But many ships have ruled the sea/ The built the Eiffel Tower to stand alone/ But they could build another if they please/ Taj Mahal, the Pyramids of Egypt are unique I suppose/ But when they built you, brother/ They broke the mold (Terry’s Song)

8. And taught me to value the life I was given:

For the ones who had a notion/ A notion deep inside/ That it ain’t no sin to the glad you’re alive (Badlands)

9. You can’t please everyone, so you might as well please yourself first:

Poor men wanna be rich/ Rich men wanna be king/ And the king ain’t satisfied/ ‘til he rules everything (Badlands)

10. Real love is hard, and you have to work at it every single day:

Now honey, I don’t want to clip your wings/ But a time comes when two people should think of these things/ Having a home and a family/ Facing up to their responsibilities/ They say in the end true love prevails/ But in the end true love can’t be no fairytale (I Wanna Marry You)

11. Live life to the absolute fullest, or you might just regret it

And I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it/ But I probably will/ Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture/ A little of the glory, well time slips away/ And leaves you with nothing mister but/ Boring stories of glory days (Glory Days)

12. Because we all end up in the same place anyways:

Everything dies baby that’s a fact/ But maybe everything that dies someday comes back (Atlantic City)

13. No one is going to stand up for you if you won’t stand up for yourself:

You can’t start a fire without a spark…/ You can’t start a fire sitting ‘round crying over a broken heart…/ You can’t start a fire worrying about your little world falling apart… (Dancing in the Dark)

14. Bruce Springsteen taught me the value of a promise and keeping your word:

‘Cause we made a promise we swore we’d always remember/ No retreat, baby, no surrender/ Blood brothers in a stormy night/ With a vow to defend/ No retreat, baby, no surrender (No Surrender)

(Still can’t hear this song without thinking about Cory Monteith)

15. Because sometimes you just need something to believe in:

It takes a leap of faith to get things going/ It takes a leap of faith you gotta show some guts/ It takes a leap of faith to get things going/ In your heart you must trust (Leap of Faith)

[Jake Clemons, saxophone player]

16. And to create your own destiny:

There ain’t no storybook story/ There’s no never-ending song (Countin’ on a Miracle)

17. Bruce taught me what it means to take pride in where I come from, because it’s not always going to look like it does now:

Now when all this steel and these stories, they drift away to rust/ All our youth and beauty, it’s been given to the dust/ And the game has been decided, and you’re burning the clock down/ And all our little victories and glories, have turned into parking lots/ When the best hopes and desires, are scattered through the wind/ Hard times come, hard times go (Wrecking Ball)

18. There’s a whole lot of gray area in life:

Well you may think the world’s black and white/ And you’re dirty or you’re clean, son/ You better watch out you don’t slip/ Through them spaces in between (Cross My Heart)

19. Bruce taught me that patience is a virtue (a virtue my father has YET to learn):

I’ll wait for you/ And should I fall behind/ Wait for me (If I Should Fall Behind)

20. And that loyalty is everything:

Where’s the promise, from sea to shining sea/ Wherever this flag is flown…/ We take care of our own (We Take Care of our Own)

21. Sometimes life isn’t fair:

Gambling man rolls the dice, workingman pays the bill/ It’s still fat and easy up on banker’s hill/ Up on baker’s hill, the party’s going strong/ Down here below we’re shackled and drawn (Shackled and Drawn)

22. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow:

Like river that don’t know where it’s flowing/ I took a wrong turn and I just kept going (Hungry Heart)

23. You can’t change the past so don’t dwell on it:

Nothing we can say can change anything now/ Because there’s just different people coming down here now/ And they see things in different ways/ And soon everything we’ve known will just be swept away (Independence Day)

24. Especially because for every darkness, there is a light:

Can’t see nothin’ in front of me/ Can’t see nothin’ coming up behind/ Make my way through this darkness/ I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me/ Lost track of how far I’ve gone/ How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed/ On my back’s a sixty-pound stone/ On my shoulder a half mile of line/ Come on up for the rising/ Come on up, lay your hands in mine (The Rising)

25. And most importantly (as it is the most commonly repeated in my house):

Someday we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny (Rosalita)