Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thunder Road

"So you're scared and you're thinking that maybe we ain't that young anymore. Show a little faith there's magic in the night." -from Thunder Road

Sometimes you hear a song and it just gives you that feeling. A feeling that it's right. That it's good. I felt that the first time I ever heard Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band. I love this song so much that I would sing it to baby Peanut as a lullaby. There's a live version that's more subdued. Something takes hold of me when those first few chords on the piano play, followed by the soft rip of the harmonica. Goose bumps bordering on tears. I feel like I'm experiencing a piece of music history every time it plays on my iPod.

I would channel that version as I held her in my arms in the wee hours of the night after one of those 2am feedings. I'm from New Jersey, where Springsteen is religion. So I wanted it to be part of Peanut's religion too. Instead of the traditional lullabies, I sang her rock-n-roll.
April 2007. Her first bottle. Daddy=sleepy.
I continued to sing it to her as she grew older. One night when she was around three years old, Peanut interrupted me when I sang this line:
Well I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk.
"Daddy, guitars can't talk," said Little Miss Literal.

"Some people CAN make them talk," I said. "Like Bruce Springsteen."

How cool is this picture? (I got it here.)
But I have a confession to make. As many times as I've listened to this song; as many times as I sang it as a lullaby or karaoke; as many times as I've answered with it as my favorite Bruce song, I didn't really know what it means. That is, I didn't know what Bruce was thinking when he penned it. I knew what I thought it meant. Sometimes that's all that matters, I know. But the two meanings could be totally different. (For example, when I heard Bob Dylan's It Ain't Me Babe shortly after my dad died, it reminded me of him. The song is definitely not about a father and son. Still to this day, for whatever reason it reminds me of him.) 

To me, Thunder Road has always been a song about making the most out of life, making the most out of opportunities; about last chances; about making it real. (Those are some of the lyrics, anyway.)
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Recently I jumped into a Twitter debate about Springsteen's best song. (I also love Waitin' on a Sunny Day.) When Thunder Road came up I mentioned that I once sang it as a nightly lullaby. One of my Twitter friends responded, "That's an interesting lullaby to sing to your daughter." So I got self-conscious. And worried. Was I singing an inapproriate song? I always assumed there WAS "stuff" going on in Thunder Road, with the ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away and your graduation gown lying in rags at their feet. I thought, "What have I been singing to my child?" I mean, I sang it to her so much that at one point when she was a toddler she actually requested it at bedtime and would accept nothing else.

So I did what any rational dad would do. I googled that shiz. And here's what Bruce himself had to say about Thunder Road in a 1991 documentary, according to good old Wikipedia:
"So this was my... my invitation to a long and earthly, very earthly journey. Hopefully in the company of uh, someone you love, people you love, and in search of a home you can feel a part of."
A long earthly journey. Hopefully in the company of people you love. In search of a home. Thanks, Bruce. For proving me right. Perfect.

July 2012. Along our long earthly journey
It's a town full of losers. Then I'm pulling out of here to win.
One day Peanut's journey will take her beyond this place we chose for her to grow up. She'll leave to do better than we did.

Here's the live version I sing to Peanut:

A story Bruce tells in another live version of one of his classics got me thinking about our roles in the dreams of our children. You can read about that here.


  1. Love this. Music makes memories.

    1. Absolutely. Always. Almost every song you hear evokes a memory.

  2. You had me at Thunder Road!! Jersey girl, Bruce Fan!! Love your post!

  3. Very, very sweet.
    Long live The Boss.

    1. Thank you, Tina. The Boss is in great shape. So "long live" isn't out of the question.

  4. I never heard of it till now so thanks for the education!


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