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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

It Was A Very Good Choice

When a college where I teach part time decided their New Jersey themed program needed a music component, they asked me which Jersey boy I'd like to feature in my 90 minute segment - Sinatra or Springsteen? I, of course, gave way too much thought to my answer.

Many of the songs Sinatra sang during his remarkable career have been mainstays of my guitar repertoire for almost 30 years. "All Of Me", "In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning", "Night And Day" and many more are now deeply woven into my musical fabric. Sinatra's song choices were nearly impeccable and he was a superb craftsman who acknowledged a musical debt to Billie Holiday. His legacy is secure.
 
The date of Springsteen's birth and mine are exactly two months apart. We both grew up playing in bar bands across NJ. Although the last full length Springsteen recording I bought was released in 1992, I never fully stopped listening to him; one of the last "new" songs I learned and then sang with a band was "Streets of Philadelphia" and for my money "The Rising" (2002) stands tall alongside his earlier work. His shows are deservedly legendary, his anthems powerful, and he is a ferocious, if underrated guitarist.

"These songs completed a circle, bringing me back to 1978 and the inspiration I  got from 'The Grapes of Wrath'. Their skin was darker and their language had changed but these people were trapped by the same brutal circumstances."  I'd already told the college my decision and started the development of my presentation long before I came across that Springsteen statement in "Songs", a 1998 collection of his lyrics from 1973-1995. What Bruce said - as a description of how he came to write "The Ghost Of Tom Joad" in 1995 - simply confirmed I'd made a very good choice.

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