Thursday, May 17, 2007

Basement Songs- "Waitin' On A Sunny Day" by Bruce Springsteen



For those of you who frequent this blog, you know that the music of Bruce Springsteen has meant a great deal to me throughout my adult life. His 1987 masterpiece, “Tunnel of Love” was an original basement album. The night I heard legendary Cleveland DJ, Kid Leo, recite these words from “Brilliant Disguise”, I became a fan. “Tonight our bed is cold/ I’m lost in the darkness of our love/God have mercy on a man/ Who doubts what he’s sure of”. Wow. It still gives me chills. I listened to that LP nonstop for a year. And when my high school sweetheart moved away, the song “Valentine’s Day”, which closes that record, became the eulogy for our doomed romance. I associated that beautiful song so closely with that heartbreaking period of my life that I have trouble listening to it to this day.

As the years went on, the music of Springsteen became a part of the lives of my friends and family, mostly because I forced people to listen to it and implored them to see him live in concert (which is a religious experience). I proposed to Julie with a Springsteen song (in the basement, no less… but that’s a story for another time, I promise) and converted her into a fan when we saw him together in ’99. My greatest accomplishment, though, has been watching my two children, Sophie and Jacob, become fans and appreciate his music.

Back in 2003, I had just attended a show with my brother at Dodger Stadium. I wrote an entry on my old blog that detailed my training for the two marathons I ran, raising money for CF. My friends, if you ever want to raise a lot of money for a cause, run a marathon. People seem to appreciate a person sacrificing their body to run 26 miles. I wish my knees would permit me to continue running because I miss the daily grind and I miss being able to raise the great sums that I was able to generate back then.

Anyway, I haven’t written about Springsteen yet. I figured I could fill about a hundred entries about his songs. However, this being CF Awareness month, I wanted to write about a song that filled me with hope. So, I’m going to reprint most of what I wrote back then so that you get an idea why “Waitin’ On A Sunny Day” is one of the most important basement songs in my life.

When Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising" came out in the summer of 2002, the nation was still reeling from the terrorist attacks on NY and DC. His album, using images and emotions tied to Sept. 11 is full of hope, loss, redemption and the affirmation of life. It's a remarkably crafted album and I consider it one of his finest.

At that time in our lives, we were still coming to terms with Jacob's diagnosis. It had been over 6 months, but many of the emotions I was dealing with (or trying not to deal with) were still under the surface. I had my game face on. Then I bought this album.

"The Rising" proved to be a cathartic listening experience for me. So many of the emotions I had bottled up were released when I listened to songs like "Lonesome Day", "Nothing Man" and "Into the Fire". And one song in particular became my song to Julie. The upbeat melody countered the lyrics that seemed to be talking about life in the Malchus house. That song is "Waitin' On A Sunny Day". Here are the lyrics:

It's rainin' but there ain't a cloud in the sky
Musta been a tear from your eye
Everything'll be okay
Funny thought I felt a sweet summer breeze
Musta been you sighin' so deep
Don't worry we're gonna find a way

I'm waitin', waitin' on a sunny day
Gonna chase the clouds away
Waitin' on a sunny day

Without you I'm workin' with the rain fallin' down
Half a party in a one dog town
I need you to chase the blues away
Without you I'm a drummer girl that can't keep a beat
And ice cream truck on a deserted street
I hope that you're coming to stay

I'm waitin', waitin' on a sunny day
Gonna chase the clouds away
Waitin' on a sunny day

Hard times baby, well they come to tell us all
Sure as the tickin' of the clock on the wall
Sure as the turnin' of the night into day
Your smile girl, brings the mornin' light to my eyes
Lifts away the blues when I rise
I hope that you're coming to stay

Before this album came out I was already a Springsteen nut. Borderline psychotic. Oh, I wasn't above being critical ("Human Touch", anyone?) But he really could do no wrong as an artist. I have always been a lover of music. My mom raised me listening to the Broadway hits of the 70's. I used to ride around in grocery carts singing the songs from "Chorus Line" and "Chicago". And rock and roll became my escape, just like so many adolescent boys. I didn't discover Springsteen until I went to college. Once I started paying attention to what he was saying, though, I couldn't stop spinning his records (remember those) and playing his cd's.

An interesting thing happened in February (of 2003). CBS aired an hour-long Springsteen concert special that I recorded because I knew we'd being putting the kids down. As I was setting the VCR, Sophie asked what I was taping. When I told her, she told me she wanted to watch the "Springsteen" the next morning. Thinking there was no way she'd give up the "Rugrats" for a 50-year-old rocker, I said “yes”. The first thing she asked to watch the next morning was.... Rugrats. But the next thing she wanted watch was, yes, the Springsteen "Rising" concert.

She loved it, especially Soozie Tyrell, the violin player. Sophie would take a recorder she had, pull off the bottom piece and shove a drumstick in the end. This gave her a "violin". And with the other drumstick, she'd play along with all of the songs. On that same morning, I decided to try and watch the tape while giving Jake his breather. He only likes watching music videos during his breathing treatments (i.e. The Wiggles... or "WiWi's" as he says... and Sesame Street). You can imagine the pride that shot through me as he sat still for all of the songs. My God, there's nothing better in life than seeing your children latch on to the same fanatical things you appreciate. (That's a little much, huh?)

I have infected my family with Bruce-mania. Julie and I were married to a Springsteen song ("Book of Dreams"). Jacob loves jumping up and down to "Dancing in the Dark". My daughter knows who the freakin' Big Man is and knows about the changes made uptown when he joined the band. How cool is that.

Many (most) of you must think I'm a freak. But this music is my release. It helps me escape my problems and also deal with them. I can cry openly to a Springsteen song and no one will think I'm strange.



What I barely touched on in that original entry was that Sophie asked for her own tape of Springsteen music to listen to while driving. Of course I jumped at the chance. The cassette was compiled of all upbeat songs (there will be time for the sad songs later in life) and in the order they appeared on that concert video. I can’t tell you how many times we listened to that tape. So many, it wore out and I had to burn a cd for them. That collection of Springsteen songs is my favorite compilation of all time. It will always remind me of my children and that first year living with CF. At the heart of that cd is “Waitin’ On A Sunny Day”. The song was kind of written off by some critics when the album came out because it sounded like a bouncy, peppy pop song. However, like “Hungry Heart” before it, the upbeat music disguises something deeper underneath. As the lyrics show, this is no simple love song. This is a song about people going through hard times. This is a song about persevering over whatever is weighing you down. Most of all, this is a song about hope.

About a year ago, my friend Jeff sent me the greatest gift you can send a Springsteen fan, 11 cd’s of solo, mostly acoustic performances from his “Devil & Dusts” tour. 11 CD’s! There were over 100 songs on these cd’s and only a couple repeats (and the songs that were repeated were either different renditions altogether, or included guest performers). There are two recordings of “Waitin’ On A Sunny Day” included among those performances. Each strips away the pomp and bop of the studio version and reveal the gentle, soulful song hat it truly is. Singing with quiet hope in his voice, Springsteen conveys the true message of this song and made me a fan of it all over again. Incredible.

When I hear this song, I think of my wife and the difficulty we have expressing our grief and fears. Sometimes it’s so hard to hold a conversation because a lot of the time they deal with cystic fibrosis. When I hear this song, I think of my brother and I, scr5eaming our lungs out at Dodger Stadium, and me wishing Julie and the kids were there. When I hear this song, I think of Sophie and Jake, jumping around, she holding her “violin”, and He carrying the ukulele we bought in Hawaii. Most of all, when I hear this song, it gives me hope. By saying he’s “waiting on a sunny day”, Springsteen is saying that a sunny day will come eventually. It may not be tomorrow. It may not be next month. But it will come.

Our days a much sunnier than they were back in 2003. Although I struggle with what I like to call my “sadness”, I still have hope. Sunny days are always around the corner. And when they come, I know that my lovely bride and my two glorious children will be by my side.

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