Most musicians have little chance of achieving lasting wealth and fame. It’s a profession in which only a tiny percentage of people ever “make it”—at least according to the impossibly high standards of celebrity we tend to apply. So why do people stick with it, year after year, through health scares, financial crises, and all the other grown-up hardships that kill many a childhood dream?
We often morbidly focus on rock and roll casualties. Look, however, at the stars who do survive the business decade after decade. Though music may not stave off aging, it clearly has the power to preserve youthful enthusiasm long into what some still call retirement years. The examples are too numerous to list; we could hardly do better than to look at the late career of Bruce Springsteen.
Like many of his generation, Springsteen was turned on to rock and roll by seeing Elvis, then later the Beatles, on The Ed Sullivan Show. And like budding musicians still today, he received his first guitar at 16 as a gift from his mother. (He later wrote a song about it.) Over 50 years later, he’s still got the wide-eyed wonder of his sixteen-year-old self. Or at least he’s willing to take teenage risks, pulling out one song every night during a recent tour with the E Street Band “that we haven’t played since we were, I don’t know, sixteen, or maybe never.”
It takes a youthful degree of fearlessness—or recklessness—to stand on stage in front of thousands of fans and play a totally unrehearsed tune, especially one as wordy and finely-tuned as Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell.” We know Bruce and the band have chops, so watching them run through a few different keys before they dig in doesn’t produce too much anxiety. Nonetheless, their ability to throw themselves into the total unknown, just for fun, makes the performance seem like the kind of stunt most of us only attempt before we’re taught to settle into much more predictable grown-up routines.
How well do they pull off the Berry classic on the spot and unrehearsed? See for yourself, and then compare it to the eternally youthful man himself, who at 90 years of age will soon release his first new album in 38 years.