Twin of the Day – Penny: I recently introduced Penny to the “savior of rock n’ roll”, Mr. Bruce Springsteen. She was inclined to distrust my taste after I first tried to get her on board with the Dave Matthew’s Band, which she compared to the sound of “fluffy kitty cats scratching a chalk board.” “I guess they’re an acquired taste — like beer,” I shot back! “Oh, I totally get the analogy”, said Penny!
To my delight, Penny was immediately drawn to “The Boss”. “I love his gritty baritone voice,” she said! She’s particularly intrigued by his early stuff, which more prominently features playful, often nonsensical lyrics. And his trademark “wordless wails” reminded Penny of her own hunger pangs.
I eased Penny into The Boss’ expansive catalogue with a few standards, including Thunder Road, Badlands, and Glory Days. I was especially eager to bless her unrefined ears with Bruce’s solo masterpiece, ”Youngstown,” which details the plight of laid-off Ohio steelworkers. She assumed that my Northeast Ohio roots clouded my judgment — but I assured her that its themes of corporate greed, globalization, and urban decay were universal. Half way through the song, Penny noticed a tear streaming down my face. I tried to attribute it to my cat allergies, but she wasn’t having it. I finally broke down and acknowledged the song’s connection to my own dad — who worked for General Motors until Cleveland’s (Fisher Body) plant shut down in 1981. Penny then took on an introspective veneer, letting the mood of the song seep into her tiny pours. As the song reached its climax, Penny was now the one with leaky lids.
“Oh honey, are you crying for daddy?”
“No, for Bruce!”
“He proudly served his country in ‘Nam’ only to be callously disposed of by the very capitalist system he fought to protect.”
Seeing the look of admiration in her eyes, I should’ve coddled her innocence — but I couldn’t let Bruce get all of the credit. “Honey, Bruce didn’t serve in Vietnam and never worked at a steel mill — or anywhere for that matter. He never even had a real job — he’s always been a rock star!” Her wonderment quickly transformed to disgust.
“How he could he sing about the struggles of the blue collar worker without having the life experience!?”
“Well honey, he’s an artist. Artists have the ability to transcend their own experience, and evoke conversation by providing a mirrored perspective on reality.
“Dad! You’re just regurgitating platitudes! I don’t need your elitist justifications.”
“Well, Bruce came from a working class neighborhood! Doesn’t that count for something?”
“Well… I guess he’s not a total fraud!”
“We need artists honey! — Genuine blue collar workers have neither the vocabulary nor the impetus to communicate their struggles to the white-collar yuppies who’ve sustained Springsteen’s career.”
“Oh I get it! — he has all the time in the world to stroke his beard and brood over the plight of the “working class” because he’s the “boss”.