“One Step Up” by Bruce Springsteen
(Words/Music: Bruce Springsteen, Album: Tunnel of Love, Columbia 1987)
Since it was recently Boss’s Day, who better to write about than the Boss himself: Bruce Springsteen?
Whenever I listen to Bruce Springsteen, I am always enthralled by the way he manages to tell stories of simple, blue collar people and capture all of the joy, heartbreak, and frustration that make up our daily lives. The other thing that amazes me about him is that he sometimes relates these tales in grand and dramatic, nearly operatic, epics like “Born to Run,” “Jungleland,” and “Rosalita” and sometimes he opts for utter simplicity like “My Hometown,” “I’m On Fire,” and “One Step Up.” Although I wasn’t a big fan of the kinder, gentler, pop-radio friendly songs on Tunnel of Love and Human Touch because I preferred the controlled chaos side of Springsteen, “One Step Up” is one song that I liked immediately. Again, its understatement is so touching and beautiful that every time I hear it, I can’t help but start singing or humming along.
Lyrically, Springsteen opts for efficiency instead of a barrage of well-turned phrases and my favorite from this song is “We’ve givin’ each other some hard lessons lately/ But we ain’t learnin’” because, even though he just finished talking about his cold Ford that won’t start, the personification suggests the struggles he’s experiencing in his relationship throughout the rest of the song. Beginning this song with the analogy between his old Ford and his woman at once introduces the relationship and places the setting squarely in the middle of the blue collar world. And even though Springsteen has achieved as much success as a person can, he still seems to stay grounded in the real world and understand common people. If only everyone’s boss was like this.
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