But he's never really been an internet sensation. His website is modest with few interactive features beyond links to order products. His official videos on youtube, especially of more recent vintage, typically generate fewer than a million views. His first twitter post was just a few months ago.
That changed Wednesday morning.
On Tuesday, Bruce's latest studio album, High Hopes, was officially released. That didn't make a dent.
But that evening, he appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. And by Wednesday morning, seemingly the whole world knew about it. My facebook wall exploded with links. Not just from my Bruce friends, either: From my old high school friends from New Jersey. From college friends in the diaspora. From conservatives.
Bruce's appearance on Late Night came as no surprise; after all in 2010 he went in the show and spoofed his own '70's look for a comedy bit with Fallon, and in 2012 Springsteen essentially took over the show for a week upon the release of the Wrecking Ball album. I figured this time they might use Bruce's most iconic look, the Born in the USA tour denim and bandana, as they'd done for the final show in 2012. On that part I guessed right, but I didn't see the rest of it coming.
Shortly after Bruce's Late Night appearance was announced, news broke that New Jersey governor Chris Christie's office had masterminded the September shutdown of two local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, causing massive gridlock in Fort Lee.
Christie, of course, is a major Springsteen fan. He claims to have attended 130 shows, and to have wept after Springsteen hugged him. Once, Christie even appeared on Late Night himself, and sang a duet of Thunder Road with Fallon.
|George Washington Bridge Traffic Jam|
Fort Lee, NJ, September 6, 2013
Then Bruce came out, looking every bit a Roman God, and, holy shit do you see his arms? I want to touch his arms!! He could go on tour like that, right now!
He stared down Fallon, and started the 2nd verse by playing with the original lines: Governor, let me in, I wanna be your friend...ˆ That sounds conciliatory! Present tense, even! And it's kind of cute.
The second line, "Let me wrap my legs 'round your mighty rims and relieve your stressful condition?"
Did he really just sing that?
Thankfully, Bruce did not want an everlasting kiss from the governor. He wanted a different kind of relief: "I really gotta take a leak."
Somewhere in there, the parody went from cute to brilliant. Laughs and truth hung out together, words of conciliation and self-deprecation colliding with the finality of a blunt condemnation: "you're killing the working man." You. Not your staff. Not anyone else. You.
I imagined Governor Christie, returned from that evening's State of the State address, watching it. Did he cry over Bruce seeming to sever their friendship? Or was he more a Mike Wozowski: "I'm in... a BRUCE SONG!!!"
nytimes.com put it on the front page, with the headline blaring, "A Tale of Devotion, and a Very Public Snub." It seemed, every major news outlet ran with it; washingtonpost.com went for "skewer." The crowing moment waiting until Thursday. That's when Rush Limbaugh made a hilariously whiny statement on his radio show. Pay dirt!
By Friday evening, the youtube page for the video had 2.5 million page views, and other sites had received millions more. Springsteen had gone viral!
On the way home yesterday, a sudden snow storm caused traffic to slow to a crawl. My half hour commute became two hours. As I round the last corner of my last detour to home, I thought, "I really gotta take a leak."