Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bright and Lined with the Light of the Living

I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to see Bruce Springsteen play live more often than I can count.  Some of the best evenings of my life have been spent in the company of Margaret, Rob, Suzanne and our friends, including "The Sisters Kizis" (a/k/a the best-ever tailgate tandem - you have not tailgated at a concert until you have done so with Lynne and Gidg believe me), have been spent enjoying Springsteen's music.  And as anyone who had the opportunity to see him perform live when supported by the "Mighty E Street Band" can attest, musically it is hard to find a better return on your investment in the price of a ticket than at one of their full-band performances.

Mortality has had an evil, albeit inevitable and natural way of breaking up that old gang of theirs.  Slightly more than three years ago Danny Federici lost his battle against melanoma.  Less than one week ago, Clarence Clemons died from complications arising from a stroke he suffered on the previous Sunday.  When someone dies who we know of but do not know, with whom we have a great deal of familiarity but of whom we possess little to know intimate knowledge is it appropriate to mourn the death?  I would submit that (much as I tried in vain to persuade my calculus teacher in high school) there is no right or wrong answer to that question.  It is a personal choice.  It belongs to each of us, wholly and absolutely.

Mourning is a part of the process for many.  How long is that process - the process of grieving - supposed to last?  Again, from where I sit there is no right or wrong answer to that question either.  The choice is a personal one.  Several years ago my friend Phil Ayoub - a man so good that his only flaw is his blind allegiance to the Red Sux - posed that question artfully in a simply terrific song he wrote regarding the events of September 11, 2001, "Some ask when do we dance, Hope needs repair faith’s in a trance, Schoolbus window paper heart’s our only chance."  At some point, turning the page and looking ahead must become the order of business of the day.  Life goes on.  It must.  The alternative is simply unpalatable.

Tuesday afternoon in Florida, a number of people - some famous and some not - gathered for the Big Man's memorial service.  While I know not who was responsible for designing the Program for the service, I thought the choice of this passage beneath a photograph of Clarence was inspired, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."   The older I get, the better appreciation I have for just how prescient Dr. Seuss was.  On a day when friends gathered to celebrate the life and to mourn his passing, the service served as a way to connect the musical with the Seussical. 

According to published reports, in addition to giving one of the eulogies Springsteen also performed a solo rendition of Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, which originally appeared on the Born To Run album and tells the tale as it were of the first meeting of Bruce and Clarence and (on the off-chance you have never listened to it all the way through) Clarence's taking up residence on E Street.  While it is a song I love and have sung along to (always on key by the way!  This is my story and I get to tell it as I wish!) with great enthusiasm, yelling and bursting into applause where indicated, I must confess that it is a song I prefer better in its stripped down, bare-bones form.  Why?  For no reason other than Bruce has a damn good story to tell and with a lot of the noise blanched out, it is far easier to not only hear the story but to listen to it as well.

It has been a story worth listening to for the past four decades.  Tuesday it took on - perhaps - a new, slightly deeper meaning.  For regardless of the depth of the night's darkness, the sidewalk remains bright and lined with the light of the living.  In a time of mourning, that is something worth celebrating.....

....and worth listening to


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