The Road To Redemption


Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, [as] silver and gold. 1 Peter 1:18

The screen door slams
Mary your dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely

If there was ever another artist tailor made for this blog, it’s The Boss. He is the yang to Elton John’s yin. Whereas Elton openly decries Jesus, the Bible, the Church and anything remotely connected to organized religion, Bruce Springsteen is God’s own Prince of Rock n Roll. In fact, there are so many religious reference and themes connected to Springsteen’s work, there is a Rutger’s University course titled “Bruce Springsteen’s Theology”.

Don’t run back inside
Darling you know just what I’m here for
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
You ain’t a beauty but hey you’re alright
Oh and that’s alright with me

We are all looking for something…some meaning… to make sense of it all.  And we are all looking beyond ourselves to someone, or something, for the answer.

You can hide ‘neath your covers
And study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers
Throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a saviour to rise from these streets

We’re putting too much pressure on ourselves. The Boss is simply, as Aaron Neville sang, “telling it like it is”.

Well now I’m no hero
That’s understood
All the redemption I can offer girl
Is beneath this dirty hood

Yet (with apologies to Mick Jagger) there are ways to gain satisfaction in this world. At least those of a more “temporary” type. You just have to be real about it.  And understand that this satisfaction is a pale imitation of the larger pursuit of eternal happiness.

Well the night’s busting open
These two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels

According to professor Azzan Yadin-Israel, who teaches the Springsteen course at Rutgers, Bruce is actually imploring the young woman to not waste her time pursuing salvation in these earthly pursuits, but at the same time saying, essentially: “Hey, while we’re here, let’s have some fun and enjoy what we can.” The only thing he can really offer her is the kind of redemption we can have in this world.

Climb in back
Heaven’s waiting on down the tracks
Oh-oh come take my hand
We’re riding out tonight to case the promised land

Certainly Bruce is no angel here; nor is he the devil. I think most young men and women (and sometimes older ones) have gone down this road in seeking happiness. This is not a song about love, but lust. And, like cheap pizza, it’s not that great, but it’s not that bad, either.

Well I got this guitar
And I learned how to make it talk
And my car’s out back
If you’re ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door’s open but the ride it ain’t free

During a performance on VH-1 Storytellers, Bruce commented on the lyrical meaning to say this was “My invitation to a long and earthly, very earthly journey. Hopefully in the company of uh, someone you love.”

There were ghosts in the eyes
Of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road
In the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets

And like Billy Joel before him, with the Catholic girls who “wait much too late”, Bruce cautions against the opportunities passed by.

And in the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines roaring on
But when you get to the porch they’re gone

“Thunder Road” and the album Born To Run were a definite turning point for Bruce’s career. His first two albums had not done well, even though critics were already naming him the new “rock-n-roll Messiah”. It was “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” that first caught my attention, with Clarence (The Big Man) Clemons’ roaring sax pulling it right out of the gate. But over time I’ve come to see “Thunder Road” as the true jewel on the LP. A bookend companion to “Born To Run” you might say.

Springsteen took the song’s title from a movie poster he had seen from the 1958 Robert Mitchum movie. He never saw the movie itself, but said the poster for it just stuck with him.

So, climb on on in, the door’s open. Loosen’ up and let it roll.

Oh and you can check out “The Boss And The Bible here: