December 24, 2023
Dear Letters To You Readers,
Although it's now more than a decade old, this officially released version of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band's Asbury Park Carousel performance of "Blue Christmas" (embedded below) still feels like the perfect thing to share with all of you on this Christmas Eve, as we also get ready to count down the final week, days, hours, minutes, and - before we know it - seconds of 2023. Major themes of this year's tour were aging, loss, mortality, and - most important, in my view - how to cope with such things in ways that aren't simply depressing but instead are ultimately meaningful, uplifting, and life-affirming. To me, that's also what this version of "Blue Christmas" is all about, Charlie Brown.
This certainly has been a rollercoaster of a year for Bruce, the band, and their fans. Beginning early on in the tour, various band members began missing some gigs due to health concerns, and of course eventually a big chunk of the tour's scheduled dates had to be postponed due to a genuinely debilitating health issue for Bruce himself (albeit a temporary one, it appears, and we certainly hope so.) Yet here we are now, as the year closes, with a proclamation of "no... bellyache" and very encouraging signs indeed that Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band will be not only back onstage as promised and rescheduled, but also healthy and firing on all cylinders once more.
So I think this "Blue Christmas" video touches on all of the 2023 tour's themes, ups, and downs listed above. First off, the song itself is right in your face with its blunt depiction of loss and a Yuletide "without you." Those blue memories callin' and blue heartaches hurtin' could be just as much the result of the death of a loved one as they could be from the end of a romance. With that in mind, this version of "Blue Christmas" becomes just as moving and meaningful as all of those nightly show-closing performances of "I'll See You In My Dreams." And right there onscreen are some sweet souls departed... the immortal Clarence "Big Man" Clemons, of course (in his final public performance with Springsteen and the E Street Band, less than a year before his death,) joined this year by the late, great David Lindley, whom we lost to COVID-19 complications in early March. We also currently have a "man down" with an ongoing health concern in the E Street Horns lineup, as we wish Clark Gayton - seen (and heard) in "Blue Christmas" makin' that sassy New Orleans-style trombone swing - the fastest, fullest possible recovery from the stroke he suffered shortly before this year began.
But as for the very end of "Blue Christmas"... Well, to paraphrase what Bruce reiterated during every 2023 performance of "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," this is the most important part. He enters one of the Carousel's standing areas for his small in-person audience, and the entire audience - appropriately decked out in Santa hats - begins gathering around him as he and the band begin their big finish to the performance. Springsteen then stares straight into the cameras and says to his much larger viewing audience, "Happy Holidays... Happy New Year... from the E Street Band! We'll be seein' ya soon!" And right there, Dear Readers, in a nutshell, is the promise and the hope that Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band offer to all of us for 2024.
Thanks so very much to each and every one of you for your interest and support as we launched Letters To You this year. All the best to you and yours this holiday season. Happy Holidays... Happy New Year... and we, too, look forward to seein' ya again soon.
Shawn Poole, Editor/Publisher