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Ghosts of inspiration

Something about “Ghosts,” track 10 on Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You, gripped me from the start.

Maybe it is mighty, mighty Max Weinberg’s tom intro that caught my attention. Or Little Steven’s simple but inspired guitar hook. Or maybe it’s Patty Scialfa’s harmonies. But more likely, it is the a capella opening line that drew me in.

“I hear the sound of your guitar!”

— full lyrics at

As I’ve written elsewhere, this album is The Boss’s reflection on his mortality after realizing he is the last living member of his first band, The Castilles. “Ghosts” appears to be the most direct reference to that inciting event.

Remembering my ghosts

I’ve always been one who has been inspired by heroes (like Bruce).

As I age, however, those heroes are nearer and nearer to me.

Sometimes, for example, I hear the sound of my grandfather’s guitar as he picked out some simple tune in the living room. There are times I recognize the voice of a pastor who taught me so much. There are members of the first church I served whose faith continues to be an inspiration 30 years later.

I hear the guiding voices of my parents. There are words of encouragement from teachers, youth leaders, coaches and other adults as well.

Bruce may be singing about a literal band, but we all have bands who are part of the songs of our lives.

We’re shaped by our ghosts

The Bible uses a different metaphor — a cloud of witnesses. St. Paul doesn’t talk about a band, but an athlete.

So then, with endurance, let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us (Hebrews 12:1 CEB).

In his lyrics, Bruce pays homage to his old bandmates, recognizing that they are part of who the story of his life. They’ve shaped him into who he is today. He sings,

I’m alive, I can feel the blood shiver in my bones.

I’m alive, and I’m out here on my own.

I’m alive, and I’m coming home.

We are all the product of those whose lives and words have shaped us.

May we be grateful for those who have taken the time to be in our band.

May we also be cognizant that we are (will be) the ghosts of others.

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