I recently wrote a paper on the emergence of Nostalgia and regionalism in the 1970s and why it holds true to this day. Every time I hear a Bruce Springsteen song I think home, aka New Jersey, aka the greatest place on earth.
On July 15, 1994 a girl was born in Montclair, New Jersey. In her living room you could bet on hearing Bruce Springsteen’s album, ‘Born In The USA’ on repeat and her belting ‘Hungry Heart’ into her hair brush. Her first concert was at the Meadowlands Arena, to see The Boss at the age of eight years old. During the winters when she missed the summer and the Jersey Shore, her dad would blast Bruce Springsteen’s Live Version of Tom Wait’s Jersey Girl performed at that same Meadowlands Arena. This same song would play as her fiancé proposed to her (a dream she had as a little girl) on the Asbury Park boardwalk and will be the song she dances to with her father at her wedding, blocks away from where The Boss got his start at The Stone Pony. This girl is me.
Nostalgia is a powerful weapon. It ignores the less favorable aspects of memories in order to create an idealistic version of the past. Bruce Springsteen was one of the many artists that mastered the art of Nostalgia in the 1970s. Artists used the power of storytelling to bring you back to a “better time” and the strength of using nostalgia in music is shown in the fact that it has held up as a popular theme to this day. I can now put on any Springsteen album in my apartment in Los Angeles, California and immediately smell my dad’s barbeque on a warm, summer night in New Jersey.
Music that longs for a better time (whether or not that time actually exists) allows people to escape to a happier place. This is especially true when the world seems particularly insufferable or hard to understand. In the early 1970s “
Bruce Springsteen was in good company, as escapism and nostalgia became a central theme in rock in the 70’s that brought music specific to different regions to the forefront. As a Jersey Girl, Springsteen is someone that I continue to identify with this to this day. In addition,
“Buffett celebrated the Gulf Coast, Seger paid tribute to the heartland, Fleetwood Mac revived pop romance, and the Eagles looked for that "Peaceful Easy Feeling" in California.” (Steve Morse, Berklee Syllabus).
The Eagles reminisce in their song ‘Best of My love” off of their “On the Border” album singing, "I'm going back in time and it's a sweet dream / It was a quiet night and I would be all right if I could go on sleeping." The Eagles regional pride and love for California is also represented strongly throughout their repertoire, with songs such as “Last Resort” of the Hotel California Album, claiming, “They call it paradise, I don’t know why/ You call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye”. These lyrics are sung about how, “The Eagles were passionate about the environment and the beauty of Southern California. [Healy] lays out how man inevitably destroys anything that is ever considered paradise, which is an obvious (and still relevant) reference to human destruction of the environment” (Jordan Shelling, www.greenbaypressgazette.com/eagles-enduring-music)
Similarly, Jimmy Buffet’s love for the Gulf Coast came through in countless lyrics throughout his career, ”Got a Caribbean soul I can barely control” from Migration, “"I wanna go back to the Island, Where the shrimp boats tie up to the pilin” from Tin Cup Chalice, and “I’ve got to fly to St. Somewhere” from Boat Drinks. In addition to Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles, and Jimmy Buffet, many artists sang about their desire to be home in the ‘70s including Willie Nelson with lyrics like “Home is where you're happy” and their desire to escape reality with Chicago’s “Where Do We Go From Here?”
The examples of nostalgia for home in America that swept the airwaves in the 70s are countless. CNN proclaimed, “The ‘70s: When TV finally woke up to reality” where media was “often intentionally polarizing, as it explored the issues challenging and dividing the country” (www.cnn.com/2015/06/11/opinions/bianculli-seventies-tv/index.html). The amount of information that was flowing into people’s homes was higher than ever and for the first time, the news was beginning to report of all of the tumultuous things happening around the world. The disheartening social climate and constant flow of disheartening news in Americans homes allowed for a decade of rock’s escapism and music that continues to make us nostalgia for home and for a better time to this day.