When Bruce Springsteen announced that he was going to present a DJ show on SiriusXM satellite radio, it was hard to know what to expect. Would he approach this casually, playing some favorite songs and passing some time while isolated at home? Or would he really put work into the show, and try to make it special and memorable.
Five shows into the series (and without any more episodes necessarily coming; nothing is promised), I don’t think there’s much question that the answer is the latter. He hasn’t just played an assortment of musical gems — from his own catalog, from artists you knew he admired, and from artists you couldn’t have imagined he was even aware of — but has conveyed some deep thoughts about the times we’re living through, and shared some great stories from his past.
While it is impossible to know how much he has written out before each show, he certainly sounds as if he’s reading, much of the time. There often is absolutely no question that he has made the effort to carefully craft every word of a particularly important point.
In this regard, these shows almost feel like an epilogue to his “Springsteen on Broadway” run, or the third part of an autobiographical trilogy that began with his “Born to Run” book. He’s talking about his life, with an emphasis on the present, and using the music to add depth to what he’s saying. (He also has taken the opportunity to pay eloquent tribute to two recently deceased artists whose work he admires immensely: Little Richard and John Prine.)
I don’t know if he has any plans to make these shows permanently available in any form, but I would love to see that. I consider them essential listening for any Springsteen fan.
Here are a few excerpts from the shows, in case you don’t believe me:
I’ve lived in the United States for 70 years now, and I have to admit I’ve often been disappointed in our failure to live up to our ideals. But I also have to say, I’ve never really been able to deny that there’s a promise that constantly resides in the American people, that could make us the great democratic nation that we carry in our hearts and in our dreams. And if we put our hearts and our lives together and fought for the very ideals, those of equality, of liberty, of social justice, of compassion for our neighbors, we would find that this is where our strength resides. And we have it within in our power to create the kind of humane society we’ve always dreamt of. Now, all of this sounds corny when you say it. But it ain’t corny when you do it. — April 24
As hard as it is to believe right now, your children will go back to school. Churches will be open and full. You will once again hug and kiss family members at your gatherings. You will shout over the noise of a crowded bar to order a drink and speak to your friends. You will buy a hot dog at Yankee Stadium. You will walk through the streets of your hometown, free and easy. You may hold a complete stranger on a crowded dance floor. And 50,000 people will once again scream their heads off somewhere in New Jersey. — May 6
When this is over, and I do have faith that it’s gonna be over, I want to do the simple things again … get an ice cream cone at the Jersey Freeze. Be able to walk inside, step up to the counter and say, ‘Soft vanilla, dipped in chocolate, please.’ I wanna get a pizza with my pal, the ex-mayor of Freehold, and all my old friends, down at Federici’s. I wanna take in the boardwalk on a quiet weekday night in Point Pleasant, lose all my money at the wheels of chance. Hang at the beach till around 5:30 or 6, when the evening cool just begins to drift in, and that sun is low and warm on your skin. That is my favorite time of the day. Then I may head into Red Bank and stop at Jack’s record store … and maybe find a place to sit outside and have a drink, just surrounded by folks without a worry, just going about their business. Never has the mundane seemed so … attractive. — May 20
To read transcripts of what Springsteen has said and see YouTube videos of all the songs he has played on the shows, click here for April 8, here for April 24, here for May 6, here for May 20 and here for June 3. (Update: Here are reports on June 17, July 1 and July 15 as well.)
Though he is not officially on a schedule for these shows, he has been doing them once every other week.
The shows have lasted between 90 minutes and two hours each, and are being broadcast on SiriusXM’s E Street Radio channel (channel 20), with repeats and on-demand availability following the initial broadcast. Visit siriusxm.com.
CONTRIBUTE TO NJARTS.NET
Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence, though, depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of $10, or any other amount, to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJ Arts Daily to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.