Born again, the mantra of America. A rebirth every minute for somebody, a company, a new name, a new game. Something dies, something new is born. There is no void in the pursuit of relevance.
The WSJ music section headline announces a few days ago, “The Boss Heads in a New Direction.” That would be Bruce Springsteen, who else? More about this in a minute.
I’m sitting on my brother’s porch one day, my brother who lives next to the golf course. He got smart and found a way out of the dentistry game several years ago. We watch the duffers come and go and confiscate their errant slices from the yard — twenty-four yesterday alone.
A threesome approaches the tee. Two hit pretty decent drives. The third one swaggers to the tee, stretches, does his best Dangerfield and positions the ball. The swing, a mighty effort for a total miss.
He shrugs it off, laughs. The others ignore him. He sets up, takes another swing, a topper that bounces about twice and comes to rest about five feet from the tee. Undaunted, he takes another swing — grass and dirt. The ball flies straight up, landing about ten feet away.
He turns around, drops his club and raises his hand to the heavens as if to think, or perhaps say, “I give up.” He’s realizes he’s not in the game, never has been, never will be; needs a new direction. Reality is sometimes sad but always instructive.
It must be hard these days, trying to stay in the game. What can be done? Everyone’s trying to find a gig, some way to keep their face in front of the crowd, to keep the money rolling in.
Some resort to TV. Others to billboards. George Foreman now sells home improvements. Former NFL coaches pimp hearing aids. Selleck hawks reverse mortgages. Freeman sells Mellow Yellow. Sajak’s Wheel keeps spinning though Vanna doesn’t do close-ups anymore.
On highway billboards lawyers with big budgets and squirrelly mustaches promise windfalls while gorgeous women Realtors sell dreams. Money is their common denominator.
Wherever you look, people are trying to stay in the game of relevance, some for money, some for prestige, some who just want to find inspiration for keeping on keeping on. Motives may differ, but not need.
But not Bruce. Hitting 70 has given him focus, he has vision, his motive is clear. He has a legacy to protect, to solidify, lest he be blotted out of posterity by hip hop, rap and other sound waves passing for music.
Now, I won’t be able to help Bruce, not caring too much about his barroom specialty R&B sounds. Merle and Waylon speak to the soul, and their legacy is intact permanently with me. But you’ve got to give Bruce credit, he’s on a mission.
Not that Bruce needs more money or recognition. He has enough royalties to last more lifetimes than he will every enjoy. So, what’s his purpose of staying in the game? Same as all former presidents with their presidential libraries … hey, I lived, I was somebody. King Tut was like-minded. Where’s his relevance now? Ho hum.
Bruce has a new album, Western Stars, mixed with old Glen Campbell sounds as inspiration. The theme is a dreamlike, mythical world, a Western world of faded Levi’s, of open sky, of freedom and possibility, mixed with isolation and loneliness, a John Wayne world that existed before raucous concern of climate change, Confederate iconoclasts and the advent of Rocket Man.
Bruce’s photo in the article is evocative, a throwback to a more innocent time. He stands, leaning casually against a 70s pickup with a dented front grill, looking off in the distance. He wears his signature neck chains, white tee under a Levi jacket overlaid with a sheepskin leather jacket, collars turned up. He holds a beat-up cowboy hat and shoves one hand in the pocket of his jeans.
His hair is dyed black, except for the graying sides, but his weather-beaten facial expression sends the message that he’s out of context and would rather be back in a dark bar with his screaming guitar. But such photos are for show, and this one sends the message designed.
Bruce and the duffer might have something in common … they’re both in their own way trying to stay in the game, the game of life, a game full of romance and surprises, in spite of it all.