Bruce Springsteen turns 60 on Sept. 23, but he hardly seems headed for retirement. Through four decades he has won over fans with a passion that's ageless. The Boss brings his E Street Band to the Ford Amphitheatre on Saturday night, and we asked three fans with tickets to the show - one 60, one 29 and another 17 - to explain why Springsteen's music speaks to them. For more, see blogs.tampabay.com/tbt.
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When I saw Bruce Springsteen for the first time in 1978, I had given up on rock 'n' roll as if it were a childish vice. I had grown up listening to the Beatles, James Brown, the Beach Boys, the Stones, Otis Redding and Bob Dylan. That music had meant more to me than anything I learned in school. When a friend secured front-row seats to a show at Bayfront Center Auditorium in St. Petersburg, I only knew what I had been told: This guy Springsteen was pretty good. He already was a big star, having been on the covers of Time and Newsweek, but I couldn't have hummed Born to Run if you'd held a zip gun to my temple. But he played as if his life depended on it. At one point I remember thinking: "This isn't just a show. This guy wants to be here as much as we do.'' The darkness, the passion and the humor was in music that managed to sound new and old at the same time. I had never seen a performer - I had never seen anyone - with that kind of energy. He was getting real, real gone and bringing us along for the ride. At the end he ripped open his shirt, dropped to his knees and screamed like James Brown. "I'MMMMM JUST A PRISONER - OF ROCK 'N' ROLLLLLLLL!'' He was. And so were we, for three glorious hours. - Jeff Klinkenberg, email@example.com
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My first Bruce Springsteen album was Greatest Hits, released in 1995. I was 15, and I needed some sort of Springsteen starter set, and in the days before iTunes, what option did I have? It turned out to be a great purchase. My musical tastes have always leaned toward the modern - Radiohead, Death Cab for Cutie, Third Eye Blind - but to this day, Track 2, Thunder Road, remains one of my all-time favorite songs. Just that one line - "You ain't a beauty, but hey, you're alright" - is imbued with more real, honest love than most songwriters can scrounge up in a lifetime. Today I am 29, the same age as Springsteen when he released Darkness on the Edge of Town, but I feel as though I'm just coming into my own as a fan. I recently bought a dusty record player at a yard sale for $5, and now every time I visit Bananas Music in St. Petersburg, I scan the bargain stacks for old $1 Springsteen LPs. Only now, through the miracle of Nixon-era technology, am I devouring deeper cuts from Springsteen's past, like Jungleland, Jackson Cage, and No Surrender. These are not Bruce Springsteen's Greatest Hits. They are bulky, messy, rambling epics that have no place on a best-of collection. But they shimmer with electricity, and they cannot be imitated. They're why fans fell for the guy in 1975, and why I so admire him nearly 35 years later. - Jay Cridlin, firstname.lastname@example.org
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If you ask any man who he'd be if he could be anyone else, the results put Bruce Springsteen No. 2 after James Bond. Sadly, I am just discovering this. Two months ago I decided to go to the Springsteen concert this weekend with a couple of Bruce fanatics. Ever since, I have been determined to know more than the lyrics to Thunder Road and Born to Run. Not wanting to jump to the Essential Bruce Springsteen album, I stumbled on an album completely foreign to me. The Ghost of Tom Joad was not what I expected to find on my first listen. The songs were quiet, introspective, and had folk undertones. Songs like Youngstown were full of intelligent commentary and backed by a simple acoustic guitar. I got the opposite of what I expected, but I was not disappointed. I plan to continue this education so I don't seem too ridiculous at the concert. Although he turns 60 this month, he rocks harder than most. I usually would disagree with those who suggest that there is something wrong with my generation. But on Springsteen, I'd have to agree with the older generation. If there is anything wrong with us, it's our lack of Bruce. - Jacob Stewart, Gibbs High School
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
Springsteen brings his Working on a Dream tour to Tampa's Ford Amphitheatre at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. $36-$98. (813) 740-2446. livenation.com.