So rumble, young musicians, rumble. Open your ears and open your hearts. Don’t take yourself too seriously. And take yourself as seriously as death itself. Don’t worry. Worry your ass off. Have iron-clad confidence, but doubt. It keeps you awake and alert. Believe you are the baddest ass in town. And you suck. It keeps you honest. Be able to keep two completely contradictory ideas alive and well inside of your head and heart at all times. If it doesn’t drive you crazy, it will make you strong. And stay hard, stay hungry, and stay alive. And when you walk on stage tonight to bring the noise, treat it like it’s all we have. And then remember, it’s only rock and roll.
It was interesting, because I read somewhere that did a high school survey, and it asked kids what was Born In The U.S.A. about, and they said, “Well, it’s about my country.” Well, that’s pretty good. That’s a good start, right? I mean, that is one of the things it’s about, you know. But I think one of the problems that we have is that, it’s not that people aren’t taught to think, but that they’re not taught to think hard enough. I mean, Born In The U.S.A. is not ambiguous. All you gotta do is listen to the verses. If you don’t listen to the verses, you’re not gonna get the whole song, you’re just gonna get the chorus.
I wanted to make the greatest rock record that I’d ever heard, I wanted it to sound enormous, to grab you by your throat and insist that you take that ride, insist that you pay attention – not just to the music, but to life, to being alive.
I saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band call out Rosalita on August 24, 2008 — the date stands out because it was the Sunday of the Beijing Olympics. I had flown home that day from China. I felt that deep exhaustion that comes from flying halfway around the world, but I went to the show anyway, and it’s a lucky thing because it was the best Springsteen show I ever saw. It was the last night of the tour, and Bruce was hyped, and the band was into it, and everything felt charged.
And before the night ended, they played Rosalita. Throughout the song, I watched Clarence Clemons. He was, by then, 66 years old, and he was an old 66. The Big Man lived uphill. He partied hard. He married five times. He hopelessly chased his own youth. He pushed against the wind. They had put a chair for him on stage, and he needed it most of the night. He could barely stand. He could hardly move.
In any case, they played Rosalita and I watched the Big Man, and I would love to tell you that he grew young before my eyes. I would love to tell you that because it would make for a wonderful tribute. But it isn’t so. The music was young. Even the music he played was young. The man behind the saxophone was old. He tried to dance, and in some vague way he did. When he finished, he was breathing heavy. Here’s the thing: It wasn’t sad. Well, maybe it was a little sad because the years go by too fast. But seeing him step out of his chair, walk slowly toward Bruce, play the familiar riffs for Rosalita, seeing him and the band sing that line, “Your papa says he knows he knows that I don’t (have any money),” it was beautiful. Because he loved it. He still loved it. He couldn’t be young again. But he could remember being young. And that was the something beyond.