“I’m alive and I’m out here on my own.” That line from “Ghosts” – a song off Bruce Springsteen’s recently-released “Letter to You” album – resonates with anyone old enough to acknowledge their mortality.
But this isn’t a morbid take. Far from it. At 71 years old, Springsteen isn’t crafting songs while sitting in a rocking chair, reminiscing about the good old days.
He has adapted to the dynamics of Covid-19, hosting podcasts on his SiriusXM channel, and then stepping out into the studio with his talented wing men, The E Street Band.
The album was recorded live in Springsteen’s home studio — without demos and only minimal overdubs — in only five days.
The release went bonkers, with a historical twist. Springsteen became the first recording artist in history to have a chart-topping album in each of the last six decades, according to Billboard magazine.
After its release on Oct. 23, “Letter to You” premiered at No. 1 on Billboard’s Album Sales Chart and No. 2 on the Billboard New 200 Chart.
A recurring theme throughout the album is dealing with death and aging, Springsteen’s inspiration drawn by the death of George Theiss, one of the members of Springsteen’s first group, The Castiles. Springsteen is now the last surviving member of the five-man group formed in 1965.
“You can hear how the anger and depression of his tougher times and his many split personalities delivered him to stability, and the most fascinating parts of ‘Letter to You’ are when he comes out of the shadows to admit that he realizes it, too,” wrote Kory Grow in a “Rolling Stone” review.
“So much of his music has been about learning to live with the setbacks his characters cannot change; this is the sound of Springsteen accepting that for himself.”
“Ghosts” is arguably the most powerful track on the album. It is not only a homage to Theiss, but to others lost along Springsteen’s rock ‘n roll journey – Clarence Clemons, his closest friend and bandmate, and organist Danny Federici.
The video includes poignant images of the formative years with the Castiles, along with snippets from his E Street Band era. Springsteen is very much in a reflective mood, but he isn’t wallowing in self-pity and regret.
At another point in “Ghosts” he sings, “By the end of the set we leave no one alive.”
That’s always been the point and purpose of an E Street Band concert. Three-plus hour marathons that defy age and expectations. Springsteen connects with an audience in a way few performers can — there’s always a bit of spontaneous combustion (set lists are fluid), and there’s that human touch with him often wading into the audience and letting them lift him up and pass him along back to the stage.
An international pandemic has kept them from touring, but Springsteen and the band wait in the wings to take the show on the road yet again.
They will take their “Ghosts” with them, bandmates forevermore, doing this crazy thing called rock ‘n roll.