Springsteen entered my life the way most big loves do: casually, unintendedly, almost unnoticeably. But before I knew it, his music had carved a place in my soul forever. Nobody states simple truths about life in a more beautiful way than the Boss. His songs bring to life characters who struggle, live, love, and feel the same way you and I do. Let their lessons be your lessons too. Choosing the wisest, most impactful lyrics from almost 50 years of songs is not a work carved in stone, what speaks to my heart might not speak to yours. But the Boss has a universality to him that rarely fails to make people feel something in their guts. Let the lines below be the punches you need to take.
“Every fool’s got a reason for feelin’ sorry for himself” — Better Days
Punch taken. How many times have you felt sorry for yourself, blaming everyone around you, the world, the government, the economy, the weather, the environment, and all gods? Feeling sorry for yourself takes you nowhere, but taking responsibility empowers you. You stop seeing life as something that happens to you, and you start taking action to get yourself where you want to go. This is such a powerful reminder that I asked a designer friend of mine to create a poster with it, and I put it up in my living room.
“You can’t start a fire worrying about your little world falling apart” — Dancing in the dark
“Dancing in the dark” takes us to a world where days are grey and a repetition of each other, where there is no will to get out of bed in the morning and there is a constant feeling of tiredness. Isn’t this your life at times? You need change. But to reach it, you need to be bold and take a chance. Your little world might fall apart, but sometimes you need to break something to build upon its ruins. As Springsteen says in “Badlands”, “let the broken heart stand as the price you’ve gotta pay”.
“We learned more from a three-minute record baby than we ever learned in school” — No Surrender
The Boss addresses something that many of us are too ashamed to admit: life teaches you more than sitting in a classroom ever can. School teaches you facts, it teaches you to think. But a “three-minute record”, a powerful concert, a heartbreak, the loss of a friend, the birth of a child… they all teach more precious lessons.
“When it comes to luck, you make your own” — Lucky Town
It’s powerful because it is true — regardless of what you want to believe in. It is easy to believe your life is conditioned by where and when you were born, how you were raised, the opportunities you got. Basically, you hand in the key to your happiness to the universe and let luck decide how your life will turn out. But there is no such thing as luck, luck happens to those who build it. Stop waiting for your luck to arrive and start making it happen.
“We gotta get out while we’re young / ’Cause tramps like us / Baby, we were born to run” — Born to Run
The most epic coming of age song ever written! “Born to Run” teaches you that youth is meant to be lived intensely, staying true to yourself and your dreams. It urges you to get out of the badlands you’re living in and go chase your truth. This song is also about going through all this with someone whose soul connects with yours. “Together, Wendy, we can live with the sadness / I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul”.“Born to Run” teaches you to feel life in your bones, shaking you in ways only raged, hopeful youth can.
“Now you can’t break the ties that bind” — The ties that bind
Springsteen was born to run and left the badlands of his native New Jersey in search of a promised land. Years later, he ended up returning to his hometown and finding peace with it. Some ties are unbreakable. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to escape, some places and some people will stay with you forever. Embrace them.
“Hard times baby, well they come to us all / Sure as the tickin’ of the clock on the wall” — Waiting on a sunny day
Next time you feel sorry for yourself and struggle to get past the hardship, know that you are not alone. You are not the black sheep of the universe, the only one that the cosmos throws terrible things at. Hard times are part of life, the sooner you accept them, the sooner you go through them and move on. Because there is hope on the other side of suffering. As Springsteen sings in “Wrecking Ball”, “hard times come, and hard times go”.
“Now, baby, everything dies, honey, that’s a fact / But maybe everything that dies someday comes back” — Atlantic City
As the striped back chords of Atlantic City start playing, you know this is a song about being real and facing life as it is, with all its troubles and hardship. Everything dies, Springsteen was not the first nor the last to make this blatant statement. But he hints at a possible bright future — “maybe everything that dies someday comes back”.Not all deaths are forever. If you die figuratively, you can always come back to life. Maybe. Someday. Have hope.
“Poor man wanna be rich, / Rich man wanna be king / And a king ain’t satisfied / ’Til he rules everything” — Badlands
This is a telling statement about human nature. We always want more, never reaching a state of satisfaction or contentment. Sometimes, we miss out on happiness and peace because the constant hunger prevents us from appreciating what is, instead of what could be. But, on the other hand, isn’t this what makes life exciting too? Always striving for more, chasing the next goal, having a purpose. Just make sure to find the balance between the two sides. Because you, like everybody, “have a hungry heart”.
“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” — Thunder Road
Even though Springsteen wrote this song in his early 20s, it is timeless. You can be 30 and feel you’re not that young anymore, or you can be 60 and feel the same. But, in spite of how old you are, there is always magic in the night. There is always a possibility of a beautiful tomorrow, waiting to happen and make you feel alive and invincible all over again.
All of life’s answers are in Springsteen’s songs. Youth, struggle, love, heartbreak, family connections, relationship to your roots, society issues, hope, trust on better days… Search and you will find them in the words of The Boss. There is something for everybody in Springsteen’s songs. He’s the singer of the human condition, not living anybody behind…
This train carries saints and sinners This train carries losers and winners This train carries whores and gamblers This train carries lost souls I said, this train dreams will not be thwarted This train faith will be rewarded This train hear the steel wheels singin’ This train bells of freedom ringin’ — Land of Hope and Dreams, Bruce Springsteen