How Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’ Almost Became the ‘Unofficial Theme’ of New Jersey’s Youth
Bruce Springsteen has always worn his love of his home state on his sleeve, starting with the title of his debut album, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. On April 17, 1980, the New Jersey State Assembly decided to repay him by introducing a resolution officially naming him the “New Jersey Pop Music Ambassador to America” with “Born to Run” as the “unofficial ‘rock’ theme of our state’s youth.”
The project was the brainchild of Carol Miller, a DJ at 95.5 WPLJ-FM, which was New York’s key rock station until its transition to Top 40 in 1983. The previous December, a newspaper article noted that New Jersey was looking for an official anthem. Miller then went to work.
“Over half of our listeners live in New Jersey,” she told United Press International. “We got so many requests for it that I started referring to it as the state song of New Jersey. It was kind of a joke.”
But the notion started to pick up steam, and by early March, Miller began a petition drive to make it happen. One of the radio station’s account executives, Robert Visotcky, told his father, assemblyman Richard Visotcky, about the proposal. “Bruce is a New Jersey native,” Robert said. “He often talks about how much he loves the state and, most importantly, it would make young people in the state believe in politics again. It would shed a better light on the political situation in New Jersey.”
The elder Visotcky agreed, and he, along with colleagues Francis J. McManimon and Joseph V. Doria Jr., drafted Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 121, which reads:
WHEREAS, Bruce Springsteen, who was born in 1949 in Freehold, Monmouth county and grew up amid the friendly, tranquil, small-town atmosphere that exists in that historic county seat, and who came to know well in his youth the sights, sounds and styles of summer life on the beach and boardwalk of that nearby ocean resort town of Asbury Park, today is recognized as one of pop music’s most talented and outstanding performers, as well as one of its most influential and innovative artists; and
WHEREAS, Bruce Springsteen, through his special ability to trans-form his experiences and environments, many of them framed and shaped by his youthful years as a resident of the State of New Jersey, into vivid musical compositions, and in his unique fusion of the diverse traditions of rock music, percussion productions and urban rhythm and blues, has touched a universal chord of music, experience and life-force among today’s youth; and
WHEREAS, Bruce Springsteen’s talents as a singer-songwriter, from his debut album, Greetings From Asbury Park, N. J., through his dramatically detailed soul and Latin-tinged album, The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, and in his galvanic album, Born to Run, whose title song has achieved anthem-like status throughout the world and has been adopted as their song by the teenagers of New Jersey; and
WHEREAS, Bruce Springsteen’s live performances, particularly with his E Street Band, have been hailed as the most exciting shows on the world concert circuit, in which this young musician’s seemingly unlimited energies and enthusiasm, plus his genuine modesty and honest concern for providing his faithful audiences with a performance they deserve, all serve to enhance his well earned reputation as New Jersey’s Pop Music Ambassador to America; now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the General Assembly of the State of New Jersey (the Senate concurring):
1. That this Legislature salutes the outstanding musical talents, abilities and achievements of Bruce Springsteen; pays tribute to his preeminent status as an artist and performer; commends him for providing entertainment, enlightenment and enrichment to peoples throughout the world; expresses its appreciation for the recognition which he has brought to the State of New Jersey; wishes him continued success and fulfillment in his career.
2. That thus Legislature declares *[Bruce Springsteen to be the New Jersey Pop Music Ambassador to America, and calls upon the young people of all ages throughout New Jersey to adopt his songs]* “Born to Run” as the unofficial *rock* theme of our State’s youth.
3. That a duly authenticated copy of this resolution signed by the President of the Senate and attested by the Secretary thereof, and signed by the Speaker and attested by the Cleric of the General Assembly, be presented to Bruce Springsteen.
The resolution passed the Assembly on June 12, 1980, by voice vote. But it never made it through the state Senate, presumably because the senators listened to the lyrics and realized that the song is about a desire to get out of New Jersey.
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