I want to talk to you about a song by Bruce Springsteen. Apparently, this song came out in 1994, which isn’t really what I recall at all, because for whatever reason, I associate Bruce Springsteen with the 1980’s. I guess that’s because I remember his earlier albums such as Born to Run better.
This song, Streets of Philadelphia, is about AIDS. Know something? I was already in my 30’s at the time and dating Joe. As we speak, I can recall our conversation.
Joe said to me, “Sad, isn’t it? Do you know what artist that is, Jules?”
I shrugged. I didn’t want to seem dumb. But I decided to give it a try. “Could it be Bob Seger?”
“No, Jules, you are close, though. Their voices are similar. That’s Bruce Springsteen. Did you know he’s also called The Boss? It’s a sad song. Do you know what it’s about?”
I didn’t know.
“Do you want me to tell you?”
“It’s about AIDS.”
Later, I tuned the Bruce Springsteen song in on my TV. I had a very old little black and white set with antennas that still worked. I have no remembrance of how you could tune in music videos in those days. I didn’t have cable TV. I don’t think that many people had it. It was still considered a luxury, not a “utility.”
I did have my own computer, but Joe assumed that was it was just a plaything my dad had given me. It had Windows in it but I had no clue what Windows was for, so I didn’t bother with it. Mostly, I used my computer for writing stories on WordPerfect, using five-inch floppy disks. I figured the Internet wasn’t a good idea, cuz I heard it was full of this thing called viruses.
The TV was boring by comparison, but now, I wanted to see that Bruce Springsteen song. As soon as I saw Bruce walking the streets of Philly, something seemed wrong. He wasn’t the one telling this story. Nor was that actor, Tom Hanks, who didn’t have AIDS, and didn’t convince me he was sick. They elicit plenty of pity, but both are loaded with money. So I turned to the radio version, and tried to find the written text.
“I was bruised and battered, I couldn’t tell what I felt.
I was unrecognizable to myself.
I saw my reflection in a window, I didn’t know my own face.
Oh brother are you gonna leave me wastin’ away….”
Sure, I may have been naive then. But I know now. How did Springsteen know? Ever hear the song, “Killing me softly”? Oh, probably not. It’s an old one about going to hear a song and finding out it’s about you.
“I heard the voices of friends vanished and gone…”
No wonder this song haunted me.
“Ain’t no angel gonna greet me.
It’s just you and I my friend.
My clothes don’t fit me no more….”
So earlier today, I was walking Puzzle asking myself, “What was the name of that song about AIDS anyway?” Trying to remember. Then later I lay in bed and it came to me. Streets of Philadelphia. I could hear every bit of it, every drawn-out wail. I began to cry.
“The night has fallen, I’m lyin’ awake,
I can feel myself fading away…”
Do you hear the drumbeat, too?
Or am a lying here, drifting off, alone?