People in my, ahem, age cohort were first exposed to Bruce Springsteen via his 1984 album Born in the USA, which came out when I was 12. As a result, for most of my formative years I thought of Springsteen as a bland “adult contemporary” VH1 rocker along the lines of, I don’t know, Tom Cochrane (whose little ditty “Life Is a Highway” has the distinction of being the single worst piece of recorded music in history).

Then I stumbled across Nebraska, and The Ghost of Tom Joad, and went back to Born to Run, and realized that I’d been seeing a Springsteen through a very narrow lens. (Honestly, who among us would like to be judged by what we did in the ’80s?) I wouldn’t say I’ve become a huge fan — certainly nothing like Alterman — but like so many people I’ve come to value Springsteen for his passion, thoughtfulness, and sheer staying power. He models, in a way few people still do, how to be a relevant presence in pop culture while remaining a decent, authentic human being, a patch of solid ground in an age of ephemera.

Also, his new album Magic is pretty excellent, especially this song, “Girls in Their Summer Clothes.”