A Unitarian Universalist minister from the Boston burbs has written a book about religious themes and imagery in the songs of Bruce Springsteen.
It’s called “The Gospel According to Bruce Springsteen.” We’ve had “Gospel according to” books about the Simpsons, Peanuts, Oprah, the Beatles and others, so why not the Boss?
I’ve been a big Bruce fan since I was around 12, when a friend’s older brother played “Thunder Road.” I realize that Bruce fandom can get really over-the-top intense — seeing thousands of middle-age fans pump their fists in unison, singing along to every word, is kind of spooky — but I still love the guy.
Yes, Springsteen’s songs have often dealt with the search for meaning, for a place in the world, for a sense of justice. In many of his best songs, he’s used religious imagery to show the Big Themes pulsing through everyday life.
There’s plenty of grist for the mill, so I look forward to getting a copy of “the Gospel” by Rev. Jeffrey B. Symynkywicz, pastor of First Parish Universalist Church in Stoughton, Mass.
Springsteen was raised Catholic, of course, and loved to tell stories from the stage about being pushed around by nuns. Today, he prefers to talk about politics…
One of my favorite songs is “Reason to Believe” from Bruce’s “Nebraska” album. By creating very simple settings, with minimum detail and sparse language, he raises questions that people ask themselves all the time. Here’s the lyrics (even though a song is not a poem and really can’t stand alone with the music…):
Seen a man standin’ over a dead dog lyin’ by the highway in a ditch
He’s lookin’ down kinda puzzled pokin’ that dog with a stick
Got his car door flung open he’s standin’ out on highway 31
Like if he stood there long enough that dog’d get up and run
Struck me kinda funny seem kinda funny sir to me
Still at the end of every hard day people find some reason to believe
Now Mary Lou loved Johnny with a love mean and true
She said baby I’ll work for you everyday and bring my money home to you
One day he up and left her and ever since that
She waits down at the end of that dirt road for young Johnny to come back
Struck me kinda funny funny yea indeed how at the end of every hard earned day you can find some reason to believe
Take a baby to the river Kyle William they called him
Wash the baby in the water take away little Kyle’s sin
In a whitewash shotgun shack an old man passes away take the body to the graveyard and over him they pray Lord won’t you tell us,
Tell us what does it mean
At the end of every hard earned day people find some reason to believe
Congregation gathers down by the riverside
Preacher stands with his bible, groom stands waitin’ for his bride
Congregation gone and the sun sets behind a weepin’ willow tree
Groom stands alone and watches the river rush on so effortlessly
Wonderin’ where can his baby be still at the end of every hard earned day people find some reason to believe