Rutgers is teaching a course on The Boss this fall
Happy Birthday, Bruce Springsteen!
As The Boss turns 70 years old on Monday, an American studies and history professor at Rutgers University said he is excited for students to learn about the singer's cultural significance both locally and globally.
Prof. Louis Masur said he calls the course "Springsteen's American Vision," which follows what Springsteen himself has said. He has often remarked that his work is an attempt to understand the distance between American reality and the American dream.
The course focuses on some of the themes in Springsteen's work, including religion, social class, gender and escape — and it also becomes a history of rock music.
Masur, who has been a huge Springsteen fan since he was a teenager, said that in 1975, Jersey's son was claimed to be the person who made rock n' roll relevant again.
"He may have begun in New Jersey but he quickly expanded into becoming a global figure in many ways, though he has not lost touch with his Jersey roots," said Masur.
Springsteen's music has helped make New Jersey a place to be proud of, said Masur. The Boss' 1973 debut album, "Greetings from Asbury Park," brought Asbury Park onto the music scene. Springsteen came from a musical situation that wasn't on the map. Masur said New Jersey was a thruway between New York and Philadelphia.
"Who thought that New Jersey had a musical scene?" said Masur. That album and that moment helped give New Jersey a kind of cultural significance that it had never had.
"Born to Run" is a defining song in many ways of Springsteen's career. There was a debate at one point in New Jersey in making it the official state song but Masur said the problem is the song is about "getting out."
This is part of Springsteen's legacy: Why he writes about these deep-American themes. Those early themes are all about escaping, rediscovering yourself, journeying away. But also his music is about coming back home and building a community.
Masur goes on to say that in the past 10 to 15 years, Springsteen made a conscious decision to take on a national political platform. He was part of the vote for change in 2008 when Springsteen supported John Kerry for president. He then supported Barack Obama's presidential run.
"He's relevant because as long as Americans continue to think about what does it mean to be an American, what is the American Dream, where has the American Dream gone, he is absolutely at the center of those discussions and those debates and his music and his work is an intervention into those discussions," Masur said.
The course at Rutgers begins with Elvis Presley, then moves on to Bob Dylan, and eventually Springsteen. Masur said New Jersey students are taking the course because their parents love Springsteen and now they want to have a deeper understanding of it.
But make no mistake, said Masur. This course is difficult as it really hones in on the critical thinking, writing and analysis of The Boss' music and lyrics.
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