My Brush With Bruce Springsteen

George Pimentel

Few things can transport us back in time, or remind us of a moment, a place, a person, quite like a song.

For my Generation X cohort we had a breadth of styles—New Wave, Glam Rock, Rockabilly, Hair Metal, Funk, Rap—some better than others, and certainly some who have stood the test of time better than others. Personally, I love it when a song tells a story; delving into human nature, love, death and everything in between, makes music timeless.

One such artist who I came of age with was Bruce Springsteen; he was our storyteller. I remember listening to his albums—yes, vinyl—in my grandmother’s basement to overcome the teenage angst I was enduring. The sense of longing, of there being something better “out there,” and you only had to go find it, the open road and tragic love affairs he sang of were far more adult experiences than my years could relate to first-hand, but I could feel it coming. Springsteen’s songs seemed to speak directly to me. I grew up a diehard fan—we call ourselves Tramps in reference to Springsteen’s anthem “Born to Run.” I am a Tramp to this day.

I saw Springsteen in concert in 1984 with the “Born in the USA” tour. Sadly, I have missed every concert since—but live-show-deprived that I am, his music is never far from my ears. But about five years ago, I sat one seat away from him at a hotel bar in Toronto and to this day regret not turning and speaking to him. That teenaged girl bubbled to the surface and a mixture of insecurity and good old fashioned Canadian manners stopped me short. He was with family. I didn’t want to annoy him. But Springsteen is famously approachable, so this brush with The Boss was a missed moment. Especially as I’d grown into a writer—a journalist, novelist and screenwriter—and Springsteen’s lyrics were, and are, an inspiration to me.

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The author with Bruce Springsteen at Indigo in Toronto.

Fast forward to October 27, 2016 and Springsteen is back in town to promote his memoir called, what else, Born to Run. It’s a beautifully written book; introspective, lyrical and provocative all at once. Indigo, the nation’s largest chain of bookstores, hosted a fan event and I nabbed a ticket, which entitled me to a book (pre-signed) as well as a chance to meet The Boss and have a photo taken. Fans arrived early, but so did Springsteen. In a whirlwind the folks at Indigo had the line moving and suddenly…it was my turn.

I handed my smartphone to an Indigo employee and there he was. Bruce Springsteen. Looking like a rock god. Black jeans (I assume Levis but didn’t see the back pocket to be sure). Leather jacket. Black boots. Even his stance was stage ready. He shook my hand. I told him how, when I was a depressed teen, his music had saved me. He looked genuinely touched and said, “Awwww. Thank you.”  I said, “Thank you.” Then it was done. My brush with Bruce was over.

I still wish I’d spoken to him at that hotel bar. But at least now the ice has been broken. Next time I see him I won’t be so shy. Besides, there’s nothing to be afraid of. He’s Bruce Springsteen—he’s one of us.