Monday, March 19, 2012

A Brief Lesson in Rock and Roll by the Boss

I was fortunate enough to catch Bruce Springsteen's keynote speech at SXSW live online thanks to a tip from my 'peeps' on Twitter. I've been a fan of Bruce for a long time.  I am originally from Jersey and even played in a tribute band called Thunder Road when I was in college...lots of years ago.  I've seen BRUUUCCE live many times beginning in 1978 at a small arena in Springfield, MA, then again in 1981 with a nearly front row seat in Hartford. I even had the chance to see him at the Meadowlands in Jersey - the local hero throwing a massive party in his own rock and roll backyard with 60,000 of his closest buddies. 

Lately though as I have gotten older, I must admit I've grown tired of the political rhetoric attached to the music and tended to lean more toward the 'shut up and sing' camp when it came to the Boss. Don't get me wrong, some of the sounds I heard were great, I just hadn't waited in line to purchase a ticket or a CD, and frankly, hadn't really even sought out his new tunes like I once did. I have however, always been impressed with his speaking ability and very much enjoyed his induction of U2 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So today when I knew he would be addressing the crowd in Austin just down Interstate 35, I tuned in. 

As a long time teacher and outsider in my own profession (music education), I found myself emotionally drawn again to his call for us to find our soul and pour it into our work. I had grown so tired of the message that I could not hear the music. Now, his message was delivered so very clearly and simply that I found myself almost standing and applauding at my desk. He is every-man indeed, and spoke with a mix of conviction and honesty all wrapped in a naive and grand notion that music can still change the world.

He started off just as one might expect,

“Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. Why are we up so —ing early? How important can this speech be if we’re giving it at noon? Every decent musician in town is asleep. Or they will be before I’m done with this thing, I guarantee you.”

 I was hooked, and for the next half-hour or so I was schooled in rock and roll history, in what it means (or should mean) to be a musician, and what it's like to be passionate about your craft. Here are a few memorable quotes from his terrific speech:

On being the 'keynote' speaker and trying to sum up what's happening 'on the street': "No one hardly agrees on anything in pop anymore."

Upon hearing Elvis for the first time on Ed Sullivan 1958 "Once Elvis's music was heard AND seen, there was no putting the genie back in the bottle." 
On musical creativity: "Purity of human expression and experience is not confined to guitars, to tubes, to turntables, to microchips. There is no right way of doing it, there'sjust doing it."

To up and coming artists on how he learned from history "Listen up youngsters, this is how successful theft is accomplished." 

On what's important as a performer "At the end of the day, it's the power and purpose of your music that matters."

Watch the full speech here. If you have any rock and roll soul at all, you won't regret it