From the earliest days, when I saw Bill Haley and the Comets on television, listened to great performers like Little Richard, Aretha Franklin, and most of MoTown, I have loved music that makes you feel like you are full to the top with both despair and joy.
I remember the first time the Beetles appeared on American television too, on the Ed Sullivan Show -- and the furor over whether or not the cameras could shoot Elvis Presley below the waist on that same show. There's not room here for me to describe my long history with the Rolling Stones (my son used to buy me a CD each year for my birthday) or with Sting and his musicality. Or with Aretha herself, who I think is right up there with jazz's Sarah Vaughn.
But by far, for me, over a long trajectory, the greatest rock performer is Bruce Springsteen, The Boss, and his E Street Band. He makes real music, writes real songs and has a very big heart. His music both describes and changes the world at the same time -- infusing even awful times with the kind of raw beauty we most commonly associate with jazz. Everyone knows about the hard times he is talking about. Everyone wants to rise up. The music just plain runs over. It's uniquely the music of America.
So tonight let's give it up for Bruce, my hero for at least 20 years. Even if you don't know all the words, you know how it goes. Right here, in the USA.