Since it’s getting warmer out, it’s the perfect time to listen to Bruce Springsteen. For me, he’s always been one of the quintessential “summer artists”. He’s the guy you go to when you’re driving around with the windows down, thinking about the possibilities of the open road. Listening to Born to Run, simply taking off not only seems romantic, but feels like it could be your destiny.
So last week I put on the usual Springsteen albums, taking in the warm weather – Born to Run, Greetings from Ashbury Park New Jersey, E-Street Shuffle, and the Hammersmith Odeon Show in particular. While I enjoy his newer albums, I tend to gravitate towards his older music. For whatever reason, sometime last week, I reached for The Rising, which I admit I haven’t listened to in a good few years.
And at first, I listened to it casually. Production-wise I think it’s one of his best sounding albums. There’s a warmth and comfort to it, musically. As I listened to it, I found myself enjoying it more than I ever have. Perhaps I never really gave it a listen, I thought. This seemed odd considering I’ve listened to it dozens of times over the year. And then it hit me, that maybe I had subconsciously started listening to it, as a result of the biggest news story of the past few years.
The Rising was an album only Springsteen could write and make. Like thousands of others in the New York/New Jersey area, Springsteen saw first-hand the devastation. As New Jersey’s Favorite Son, it makes sense that he would be the one to put these feelings into a record. It’s an Rising filled with confusion, loss, sadness, and most of all hope. Springsteen has always had a penchant for creating seemingly real characters out of fictional ones. On The Rising he composites real stories of the heros and lost loved ones of 9/11.
The Rising provided a comfort for many people when they couldn’t make sense of the world around them. And like the best Springsteen records underneath the sadness, he also tells us that it’s okay to continue on. There might be darkness on the edge of town, but the American people are resilient, and that’s at the heart of The Rising. Even so, when Springsteen invites us to Mary’s Place for a party, he asks: “how do we get this thing started?” He doesn’t know. He’s just sending out the invitations. It’s up to us to follow and be united.
Listening to it now is entirely different beast though. At the time of its release it guided us through tough times. Now it’s a reminder of the way things were in the first few years after the attacks. For some , now there’s a sense of closure in what happened on May 1st/2nd, but the turmoil still remains. We’re still waiting for a sunny day and counting on a miracle, even if the clouds have lifted a little bit.
The Rising offers a view of unity that hasn’t been felt for some time. Everybody dealt with tragedy in their own way, but there was a sense of solidarity. It’s present in the music – not just the lyrics. Springsteen may have considered reuniting The E-Street Band for an album (they got back together for a tour in 2000) before he wrote these songs, but the very idea he bought back the members he fired an severed ties with a decade before got back together also speaks volumes. The E-Street Band was back and the old feeling were gone. There was work to be done, and stories to be told – and it could only be told through the power of a family.
After listening to it again, with a bit of perspective, I’ll rank The Rising up with the best of Springsteen’s albums. It may not have changed the face of rock and roll in the way that his earlier records did. There’s no romanticism, just real-life. And sometimes, that’s just as good, if not better.