Derek Gentile: Springsteen tunes evoke life experiences


PITTSFIELD — I'd like to think that just about everyone who listens to music has at least one album, maybe two or three, that feels to them like the artist who created it was speaking directly to them.

For me, one those albums was Bruce Springsteen's "The River." (The other, in a darker way, was "Quadrophenia" by The Who.) I was still in college when "The River" was released, and it struck me fairly quickly how many of the songs seemed to resonate with my own experiences.

(Not EVERY song. I don't have a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack; nor have I ever driven a stolen car. But I did have a girlfriend named Sherry for a while.)

Monday night's powerful show in Albany drew me back into those emotions. I have a very powerful affinity for the cut "Independence Day." Springsteen's tale of his travails with his father.

To be honest, my dad and I had a very good relationship all his life. I idolized him, actually. But for a long time, I wasn't sure if I measured up to his expectations. Or if he liked me that much. Typical little kid stuff, really.

The first time I heard "Independence Day" live in 1980 in Boston Garden changed that. The song brought me back to a morning a long time ago when Dad and I were in the kitchen.

I was just a little kid. We were eating breakfast and listening to the radio. It was the height of the Vietnam conflict. Every day, we would hear about staggering numbers of American casualties. Thousands upon thousands daily.

And that morning was no different. Another 6,000 to 7,000 dead and wounded. I whistled. My father said nothing.

Then, abruptly, he said, almost to himself, "That war will just be getting over when you get called up."

Then, I nodded. In 1980, at the Boston Garden, it popped into my head that my tough-as-nails dad was thinking about me that morning and about my future. And he didn't want to see me get shot.

I cried that night in 1980 and on Monday, in 2016, I wept again as Jake Clemens' mournful sax solo played.

One more song, out of many that touched me. "Drive All Night" was a number about, well, about a guy who would drive all night to do something for his sweetie.

At the time, I was seeing a sweetie, with foaming black hair, and great skin and big eyes and a fun laugh. Someone with whom I had fun just sitting on a bench in Boston Common. And I was with her that night in the Garden. We sang the song, as we sang most of them that night.

And I sang it again Monday with The Boss.

"And I, I would drive all night again/ Just to buy you some sho-o-oes/ And to taste your tender charms/ Oh yeah. Oh yeah."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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