When a person makes a song that we enjoy dancing to, we adore that person. We might even put pictures of them on our facebook profiles and celebrate their birthdays. You can’t deny the value of a good, solidly funky song. It’s one of the greatest pleasures of life to get down and bust a move. I think one of the reasons I have been having such a spate of good days is that I have been dancing in the mornings to Q’s Jook Joint. That’s great entertainment. And Q is a great entertainer.
We have our entertainers and we have our artists. Art isn’t fun. It can be miserable, heartrending.
The way I see it is that art and entertainment are different ways society handles reality. To understand reality we have science. To escape reality we have entertainment. And to articulate it, we have art. There are things we feel: joy, hate, anger, confusion, despair, love, elation, wonder, grief… and not just specific emotions, but whole spans of experience that cause certain things to take certain shapes inside us, or certain situations that make us be certain ways and we know what is going on or think we do, but we can’t fully say so to our brains.
Until an artist comes along and says it for us. A good artist makes you say, “That’s it! Exactly! Well put! You’ve nailed it! I couldn’t have put it better myself!.” They articulate reality.
When someone does that for you, comes along and turns those dull echoes in your soul into clear words, you become immensely grateful, and you invest a great deal into this person. You could even say you love them.
A person like this could present his art in a song that’s funky, and then we will respond as we do with efficient entertainers: we will take the peripheral aspects of the experience of that enjoyable song, like the clothes the singer wore, or the slang it was performed in and emulate them; or we may take the image of the singer as a symbol of that experience, and place posters above our walls or on our facebook pages.
The way we treat entertainers like Q. We can treat artists like entertainers.
Bruce Springsteen has made some awesomely entertaining music. I think it’s called Stadium Rock when Springsteen and his longtime partners the E Street Band would unleash tsunamis of energy that would flood entire stadiums. Their shows are legendary epic events which have been rocked faces off for decades.
But Springsteen the songwriter, that’s beyond entertainment. He has an uncanny gift for reaching inside and seeing what’s there.
When he spoke of restless youths stuck in blue-collar ghettos of New Jersey suburbs dreaming of a freedom they only ever got a fleeting taste of when they jumped into their muscle cars and floored the pedals, shit, even I got it, and I was a Ugandan university student who was scared to drive.
When he spoke of how those dreams were broken, when he spoke of how something rose from the wreckage to defy its own doom with the mere but the glorious act of merely surviving, I got it.
From Born to Run to Growin Up to Nebraska to Lucky Town to Human Touch to Born in The USA to Darkness on The Edge of Town to Promised Land to Jungleland to No Retreat No Surrender to the sublime Thunder Road to Into The Fire to Worlds Apart to When You Need Me to Back In Your Arms to I’ll Work For Your Love, I got it. The songs this guy writes set a tuning fork in my own soul resonating.
Now, you may not feel the same way about Bruce Springsteen. Millions of people around the world have, for forty years, but, as always, that means there are millions more who haven’t. As I said about Michael Jackson, if your music is strong enough to be loved, it is strong enough to be hated.
But I hope if you don’t feel this way about Bruce, you feel this way about some singer somewhere, or some writer, or some painter, or someone.