Born to Run (2016)

BOOK THREE

LIVING PROOF

SIXTY-FOUR

BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME

There were two catalysts that got me thinking about reactivating the E Street Band. One late summer evening as I stepped out of Federici’s Pizza Parlor in Freehold, two young kids came up to me, introduced themselves and said they were big fans of the E Street Band but unfortunately were too young to have ever seen us live. They may have been in their early twenties. That meant at the last E Street Band show, perhaps they were ten years old. I started realizing there was a sea of young people out there who never saw the greatest thing I did: PLAY LIVE . . . with the E Street Band. Then, visiting my parents in San Francisco, I opened the newspaper to see Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell were performing at the San Jose Arena, an hour south of my folks’ house. That’s quite a bill. I asked my mom if she was game, and we drove down and took our seats stage right as the house lights lowered.

Joni came on and did a beautiful set, followed by Van, swinging and lifting the house. Van Morrison has always been one of my great, great heroes and an enormous source of inspiration for everything I’ve done. Van put the white soul into our early E Street records. Without Van, there is no “New York City Serenade” or jazz soul of “Kitty’s Back.” Then out came Dylan in great form. Playing with a band he’d been working with for quite a while, he’d tightened his music into roadhouse poetry. They felt like they’d be at home in an arena this size or in the little bar down the road a ways. The band grooved joyous blues that even got their front man dancing a little! This music, his happiness, these artists, made me happy as I stood alongside my mom and we danced in our seats. Watching the crowd was funny and a little disorienting. I felt like I’d fallen asleep, a sixteen-year-old with Highway 61 Revisited spinning endlessly in the dark night of my bedroom, and woken up fifty years hence in a rock ’n’ roll, Rip Van Winkle–like dream. We’d all gotten . . . OLD! The seats were filled with middle-aged, wrinkled, out-of-shape, balding, gray-bearded rock fans straight out of the Beatles’ “When I’m Sixty-Four.” We all looked kind of . . . ridiculous! But something else was happening. Young hipsters and teenagers were scattered through the crowd. Little kids were there, brought by their parents to see and hear the great man. Some were bored, some sleeping and many dancing alongside Mom and Pop. People were filled with heart, good cheer and emotion. I thought about my gray hairs and the wrinkles on my face. I looked over at my mother, seventy-two, her face a loving map of all our pain and resilience. She was beaming ear to ear, her arm tucked in mine. The floor was a mass of smiles and swaying bodies, and as I watched, I thought, “I can do this. I can bring this, this happiness, these smiles.” I went home and called the E Street Band.