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.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

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

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.