Bruce Springsteen selling his music to Sony for a half-billion dollars has gotten me thinking about my music and what I might get for the songs I wrote when my radio show was touring the country, such as my song for Milwaukee (“Where men still wear hats they look rather sporty in/And children still take lessons on the accordion”) and one in Idaho (“People move here from New York and New Joisy/To get away from the frantic, the noisy,/For the simple pleasures of Boise”) or: “I love Washington, D.C./In summer it is the place to be./Girls run across the lawn playing catch with a red plastic disc/By the Washington Monument obelisk.”
Bruce wrote about being on the run and down and out, but so have thousands of other songwriters, and I believe I’m one of the few who wrote a song about the beauty of our nation’s capital. Or Harvard (“The campus throbs with the fevers/Of serious overachievers”) or Hollywood:
Past Sunset & Gower, and the old Columbia studio,
Home of Frank Capra, and Curly, Larry and Moe,
And here is the gate they used to walk through:
Nyuk nyuk nyuk. Woo woo woo.
You get my drift. Bruce was going for the universal, I was going for local. Bruce gave voice to a certain male sense of superiority in being an alienated fugitive and I spoke to the pride of being in love with a place, such as Katz’s Deli on the Lower East Side:
Americans trying to be British
Avoid speaking Yiddish
But the delicatessen known as Katz’s,
For Republicans or Democrats is
A beacon of corned beef and pastrami,
As permanent as Leviticus or Deuteromi.
Why am I quoting my songs? Because I’m looking for a buyer. Bruce’s big hit song about guys driving hot rods to escape from the hometown that’s a death trap, a suicide rap –– sorry to say this, Sony, but that song is history. Men don’t drive souped-up cars or dream of the hobo life, they worry about air pollution and they want to be good fathers. It’s only wealthy executives who think they’re “Born To Run,” the guys who can afford the $500 tickets to see Bruce on Broadway. The hitchhiker is a faded American legend. People are loyal to a town, not to a highway, as I say in my song about Bend, Oregon:
Life is sweet
At 3,625 feet.
No wonder so many people relocate
To a city named for not being straight.
Or the one I wrote for Seattle:
Recommended for You
Everything is uphill in Seattle
Everything is an uphill battle
People do not coast in this town
They’re never depressed, or feel let down
You climb the hill and find a stair
And it takes you way up there.
What the Sony execs don’t realize is that by making Bruce a half-billionaire, they are destroying the lonely fugitive image that made him appealing in the first place. Bruce wrote about being born in a dead man’s town, beaten like a dog, in the shadow of the penitentiary, with nowhere to go, but when you sell your lamentations for a half-billion, you sort of destroy the authenticity. It’s like buying Emily Dickinson’s little house in Amherst so you can build a 22-story hotel and casino and shopping mall next to it. Emily’s readers are horrified and the people who come to Emilyville to shop and play blackjack have no idea who she was. You are paying a lot of money to dig a hole.
I told this to my wife and she said, “If you’re so smart, why don’t you have an office on the 42nd floor?” which made me smile: I love a woman who can take me down a notch. I don’t think Bruce and Dylan and other giants whose catalogs are selling for millions ever wrote that sort of love song. So I have.
Come live with me and be my love
Here in the USA
And now and then make fun of
Stuff I do and say.
A witty woman I adore
Who speaks a snappy line
Which makes me love her all the more
When she puts her lips to mine.
And here’s another song Bruce never imagined:
Cross the Minneapolis border
To find streets in alphabetical order:
Aldrich, Bryant, Colfax, Dupont,
Emerson, Fremont, Girard,
All the order a man could want
And each house with a well-kept yard.
What he ran away from, I embrace. Let’s start the bidding at a hundred million. Do I hear a hundred and twenty?
Prairie Home Productions