I believe in rock and roll

I believe in rock and roll. I believe in serious things too, like the First Amendment, the democratic process, three-day weekends, and free wifi. And I believe that some day the Cubs will win the World Series. But today I want to tell you why I believe in rock and roll.

I was a grownup — you could even say middle-aged — before I became a rock and roll fan. Most people become rock fans when they’re young, but among my friends in college, jazz was the only cool music. We listened to cool west coast jazz and bebop. We were all really serious about jazz.

Then one day in 1984, I hooked up a TV set to cable TV for the first time and discovered MTV. Those were the days when MTV programmed music videos day and night. I was mesmerized — by Michael Jackson, the Police, Prince, and most of all, by Bruce Springsteen. His Born in the USA album was a huge hit and the title track plus Dancing in the Dark played in regular rotation.

I began buying Springsteen records and then CDs, but it was years before I attended my first Springsteen concert. I don’t know why it took so long. My nephew, a lifelong fan, took me to my first Bruce concert. It was a life-changing, magical experience.

The lyrics to his songs had always spoken to me but now his voice, his movements, and all the keyboards, drums, guitars and saxophone of the E Street Band spoke too. I was caught up in the experience with thousands of other fans, singing, dancing, clapping and yes, sometimes crying. A live rock and roll concert is loud, emotional, cathartic, exhausting and exhilarating. Recorded music can never come close – it just reminds you of the real thing.

Now, 13 years after my first Springsteen concert, I’ve attended 28 more, six of them this year. My saner friends ask, “Aren’t they all the same?” No, each one is different. Each one is full of surprises. And the crowd at each one is a moving, singing, celebrating community. At each concert, Bruce recognizes some of the political issues of the day in his music and his commentary. That’s how he creates a community that believes in the power of rock and roll.

(Photo at left from my first concert 9/27/99 — Bruce with the Big Man. Photo © Chicago Tribune.  The ticket is faded but mine.)

Today, I’m in post-retirement mode and my belief in the power of the music hasn’t changed. Most of the time, I go to concerts with friends or relatives. But even when I go alone, I still feel that power that joins us in the spirit of rock and roll. In this divided world, that’s not a small achievement.

Decades ago, Don McLean wrote “American Pie,” a classic rock song about “the day the music died” — the day of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper. McLean sings, “Do you believe in rock and roll? Can music save your mortal soul?”

I’m not sure about the soul part. But I’m positive about the magic of rock and roll.

Note: This essay was submitted to This I Believe and accepted for the organization’s essay library.  It now appears here. http://thisibelieve.org/essay/120141/

This I Believe, Inc., was founded in 2004 as an independent, not-for-profit organization that engages youth and adults from all walks of life in writing, sharing, and discussing brief essays about the core values that guide their daily lives.

2 Comments on “I believe in rock and roll”

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