Songs Without Borders by Paul Gregory Alms

Songs Without Borders

Paul Gregory Alms on Why Springsteen's "The River" Couldn't Be Written Today

It was 1984 and I was twenty-one years old. My favorite song was "The River" by Bruce Springsteen. It had become so at the end of a road trip with friends from Chicago to Lincoln, Nebraska, in a rusted-out Volkswagen Beetle. As we came into Lincoln at sunset, "The River" came on the cassette player and it seemed to fit our journey perfectly. Though we could not have said so at the time, it matched not only the car trip but also our lives. Soon we would graduate from college, begin to get married, and go on to jobs and other pursuits. We would scatter, and the half-childhood, half-adulthood period of college would morph into the full challenges that come with wives and responsibilities and children of our own.

That car ride and Springsteen's song were characterized by coming up against limits. Sunset marked the end of the day. The trip marked the end of college freedom, and the song marks the end of the singer's own youth in the face of his impending fatherhood and marriage. That moment with the car stereo blaring in the tinny confines of the Volkswagen was a moment on the edge of a border, of bounds weighing in on us, limits we barely understood and often reacted against. We imagined ourselves somehow different from other beer-drinking young men of that age, anxious to distance themselves from their parents and upbringing.

THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:


Paul Gregory Alms (paulgregoryalms.blogspot.com) is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Catawba, North Carolina. He is a graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with both MDiv and STM degrees. He has written extensively for journals such as First Things, Concordia Theological Journal, Lutheran Witness, Lutheran Forum, The Cresset, and others. He is married and the father of four girls.

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone

• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!


personal subscriptions

Purchase
Online Subscription

Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives including pdf downloads for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!


RENEW your online subscription

Purchase Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!


RENEW your print/online
subscription

gift subscriptions

GIVE Print &
Online Subscription

Give six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for the reduced rate of $29.95. That's only $2.50 per month!


RENEW your gift subscription

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

kindle subscription

OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)

Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.


more from the online archives

29.4—July/August 2016

Deep Roots

Russell Kirk: American Conservative by Bradley J. Birzer by Hunter Baker

25.3—May/Jun 2012

The Soul of Liberty

Calls for Freedom, Democracy & Secularism End Up with None of the Above by Hunter Baker

32.2—March/April 2019

The Problem of Pity

Misguided Mercy & Dante's Infernal Purgation by Joshua Hren

00