Bruce, Bobby Jean And A Lesson From A Pop Song
The year was 1984. Bruce Springsteen's Born In The USA album had just come out and I was doing my best to wear out the cassette on my Sony Walkman.
I remember sitting by the window in the tiny bedroom that I shared with my two older brothers in Hong Kong. Eyes closed, headphones on, volume on 10. Song after song, lyric after lyric, I was pulled into the emotion, the despair, the dreams, and the hope that Bruce sang about. My personal window into someone else's most personal thoughts and relationships, as told by one of our greatest musical storytellers.
One of the songs I loved the most on that album was (is) Bobby Jean. It's a song about relationships, love and loss. About finding out that your best friend, someone who understood you, who shared your most personal troubles, had gone away.
Well, I came to your house the other day
Your mother said you went away
She said there was nothing that I could have done
There was nothing nobody could say
As with all of Bruce's songs, its visual, evocative and, through his vocals, emotional. But the part that struck me the most was the last set of verses:
Maybe you'll be out there on that road somewhere
In some bus or train traveling along
In some motel room there'll be a radio playing
And you'll hear me sing this song
Well, if you do, you'll know I'm thinking of you
And all the miles in between
And I'm just calling you one last time
Not to change your mind, but just to say I miss you, baby
Good luck, goodbye, Bobby Jean
Those last three lines always got me. I'm just calling you one last time, not to change your mind, but just to say I miss you, baby, good luck, goodbye...
When I first heard it, I remember being surprised, unsure how to feel about that statement. If you could speak with your best friend, who told you he wanted to leave and who you might never see again, why wouldn't you try and change his mind? Why wouldn't you try and stop him from leaving? Why would you let him go?
Slowly, though, it dawned on me. The intricacies of those words, the implied history of their lives, the troubles they were grappling with, the problems that led to this sudden departure. And what he ultimately meant.
It wasn't (isn't) about what you want.
It was about caring for the other person more, about thinking beyond yourself, about understanding.
That it isn't all about us.
That what's best for the other person isn't what you'd like or want.
That sometimes the right solution is to take the difficult path.
That sometimes you have to let go, even when you know you'll be losing something extremely precious.
Not to change your mind, but just to say I miss you, baby, good luck, goodbye.
All this from a simple pop song.