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I'm Ready to Grow Young Again
When I was in college, I used to tell people that I was learning more from the movies I was watching in my dorm room than from the classes I was, um, usually attending. I'd tell family members on holiday breaks, high school friends when they'd come to visit. I think I even told a couple professors that, but I never got the "shock" response I wanted. No gaping mouths, no gasps of indignation, just eye rolls, head pats and yes-of-course-you-ares.
I was never exaggerating as much as they probably thought. Through film, I was learning more about what I wanted to learn about: The World, History, Culture, Romance, Friendship, Desperation, Artistry. All thanks to the local library, the fine folks at Janus Films and a remarkable ability to remain sedentary. Seriously, I had a girlfriend who would check to make sure I was breathing as she watched "Rififi" with me.
But as much as that 10-movies-a-week diet broadened my grasp of different places and people, it's nothing in comparison to the education I've received, and continue to gather, from music.
Music, for those of us lucky enough to love it, shapes who we are, perhaps more than any other art form or entertainment. That's because of the intimate nature of the relationship between music and its listener. It lives in my bedroom, under the kitchen cabinets, in my living room, on a garage shelf, in the yard, in my car, at my job, on the computer, at the store, on my hip, on my wrist, in my pocket, in my ear. It goes round and round, dizzying me like that swirly part in "Whole Lotta Love." It runs along side me, singing harmony to my triumphs, my disasters, my hopes, my dreams.
Not only does it underscore all the important (and plenty of the unimportant) moments, it often points the way forward. There are lessons in these songs that haunt me, that reside in the back corner of my brain that I can barely scratch. This is truly "Life and How to Live It," penned and sung by someone who has. Or, at least, they know a guy who did.
The purpose of this page is to share lessons learned in music. When a song becomes more than a hit, more than a cut, more than a file. When it's worth more than 99 cents, worth more than a trip to the record store, worth more than Berry Gordy's hypothetical sandwich. This page will feature an examination of songs that tell us what lies ahead, show us places we've never been, show us new things in ourselves and even prove us wrong. My hope is that the topics will be broad, but the examples will be acute.
The proper place to start is the song which gives this page its name.
"No Surrender," by Bruce Springsteen
"We learned more from a 3-minute record, baby, than we ever learned in school," Bruce Springsteen sings on "No Surrender," not as a lament for the American educational system, but in support of every rock 'n' roll fan with his ears wide open.
Back when albums had sides, "No Surrender" kicked off the second one to Springsteen's 1984 blockbuster, "Born in the U.S.A." One wonders if the LP would have had the same success if it was released under its original title, "Look at My American Ass."
Although the record got spun a good amount in the Wawzenek household, I can't say I have any childhood memories of "No Surrender," which must have been overshadowed by dead man's towns, "Rambo Bruce" and a boy-ish Courtney Cox. Even when I bought the CD version while on a tear through the Boss's catalogue during my freshman year of college, it wasn't a track I was particularly drawn to. "I'm on Fire" scared me, "I'm Goin' Down" rocked me and "No Surrender" just kind of faded away into the "Born in the U.S.A." background.
And then I saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in concert.
"Rising" tour. Third song. Revelation.