Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Bruce Springsteen Part 2- A Difficult Post

A Difficult Post?

A couple of weeks ago I posted about Bruce Springsteen saying what an inspiration he is to people of any age but particularly to those, like me, just entering into their sixties.  Age appears no barrier- the songs are still beautifully crafted and played, the concerts epic in quality and endurance.  To anyone thinking that the best is in the past once you hit your sixties, Bruce is the emphatic riposte.

That was all said in the last post and I indicated that there was more to come. I left the story hanging in the air after recounting how the students' entertainments committee turned down the chance to have Bruce play Warwick University for a pittance and how I ended up with a warped copy of his "Wild,the innocent and the E street shuffle"LP.  Yes, I saw him at Wembley in 1985 and yes, he was amazing, but that's an experience shared by hundreds of thousands of fans.  The next part of the story is 22 years later in 2007. The problem has been that the next part becomes very personal and I think I have sub-consciously been putting this off; not knowing quite how to approach it, maybe not really wanting to approach it at all.

In this respect this post has little to do with retirement. It should perhaps have a different home.  It is personal so I hope you will bear with me on this.  I do not want it to be maudlin or sentimental.  It's more a "public thank you" posting. I suppose it's my way of saying "thanks " to some amazing people.

In 2006 my son George was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Emergency surgery followed.  Devastated by a grim prognosis he soon refocused and was determined to do an illustration degree at Brighton University.  He was accepted and had a fantastic first year keeping his illness as hidden as he could.  He did not want to be defined by cancer and certainly would have hated anyone highlighting it at the time.  

By Christmas 2007 things took a turn for the worse as the tumour returned.  Macmillan cancer support were fantastic; supporting George and the family with practical as well as emotional support.  So first thank you there.  The person who supported us then told us about the Willow Foundation.  This is essentially a charity that aims to give seriously ill young adults (George was 20 at the time) and their families a memorable experience. We thought George would not go for this but he then learnt that this could include going to a concert.  George loved his music and thought it would be fantastic if he and some family and friends could have a special day out at a concert of his choice.  He found out that Bruce was playing the O2 that December and we passed on his wish to Willow.  Willow Foundation - our second big thank you.

Willow Foundation lay on VIP treatment for the big night
Willow contacted Bruce's manager, Barbara Carr.  Now at this point we were hoping that we might get tickets for an already sold out show at the O2.  That would have been fantastic. George had picked up his parent's love of Bruce's music and would have been over the moon at just being able to see Bruce live in concert.  Barbara and Willow had other plans.  Sure we got the tickets; six altogether, but they had laid on so much more. Cadillac pick up, champagne and smoked salmon for the drive, VIP passes and backstage clearance and a one to one encounter with Bruce himself just before he went on stage.  It was a truly memorable day.  George's illness was forgotten that day and we all burned brightly throughout that unforgettable experience; laughing, eating, singing, drinking, dancing and lapping up the whole experience. In short, we were living. Maybe it was living in a bubble removed from the realities of what George was facing but isn't life like that sometimes; finding refuge in bubbles of joy? 

George and Bruce December 2007

George took my warped LP with him and got it signed by Bruce who laughed at the story of how I had obtained the record. Barbara Carr checked in with us throughout our time at the concert.  She is an amazing woman and no wonder Bruce has stuck with her throughout his career.  What we didn't know until we met her is that she had lost a daughter to sarcoma in 1993.  Her daughter, Kristen Ann was 21 when she died and there must have been a real resonance with our son George's story. Barbara Carr started  a charity to fund research fund in memory of her daughter and you can find a link here.

So- thanks as well to Bruce and Barbara.  Between them and Willow foundation we had a brilliant, happy and unforgettable day with George.  Job done. But the next bit is the bit that I find amazing. That concert was in December 2007 and  George died in July 2008.  All who knew him were devastated. That day of the concert, the fun we had, the magic of meeting Bruce, drinking too much in the VIP lounge; all great memories that still mean so much.  Then in 2009 out of the blue Barbara Carr makes contact.  She knows about George but wants to invite his brothers, George's mother and myself to Bruce's upcoming concert in Hyde Park.  VIP tickets again. We were all incredibly grateful but also overwhelmed.  This woman, overseeing a global artist's world tour remembers us and goes out of her way to invite us to another Bruce concert.  When the world seems a dark place such acts of kindness and thoughtfulness really do make the world a brighter place. We were overwhelmed by this act. Celebrity and stardom can affect some people's values and make them removed from real humanity; not Barbara. She is a women who puts people first.   

So there we have it.  I have told that little tale.  Bruce and Barbara are not saints, they are real people who have not forgotten how to connect with other people.  They have "kept it real" and that is part of the reason why Bruce Springsteen has such devoted fans.  He connects and may he long do so. He surrounds himself with others who share his values.  How we need those values in the world right now.

So thank you Macmillan cancer support, The Willow Foundation, Bruce and Barbara. People and organisations that do what they do not for money or glory but because they care.  So a little request.  As it's coming up to Christmas why not order some cards from Willow Foundation or just make a donation to either the Willow Foundation, Macmillan or the Kristen Ann Carr Fund.  What they do really makes a huge difference.  

Thanks for reading.



  1. I was thrilled to read this and to learn about the joy your boy must have felt, the rest of the family too. Having lost my husband to cancer I know what Macmillan Nurses are like, the doctors too. My charity money goes to MacMillan every month but they deserve more. Thank you for sharing this with your readers. God bless.

  2. Valerie, thanks for your comment. Macmillan do make such a difference to so many people. The more support they get , the better. And thanks for your supportive comments.They mean a lot.

  3. Oh, my heart goes out to you John. What a beautiful, poignant post you have written. You probably know that Bruce received the Medal of Freedom (the nation's highest civilian honor) yesterday from President Obama.

    On this eve of Thanksgiving, emotions sometimes run close to the surface. Thanks for sharing this very personal and touching story. What a wonderful tribute to your son.

    1. Thanks Carole and yes I saw the clip of Bruce receiving that medal. President Obama and Bruce- two fine people you can be proud of. Hope you have a good Thanksgiving.

  4. This is a beautiful post, John -- and very timely for my family and me. Thank you so much for sharing this. Thank you also for reminding us of the importance of 'real people who have not forgotten how to connect with others'. I will visit the Willow site now.

  5. Thanks Donna pleased that the post had resonance for you. Very kind words. Thanks again.

  6. John, I am so sorry about the loss of your son. Your words are very moving, and a reminder of how the consideration and kindness of others means so much, and can lead to memories we treasure. It seems that such gifts often come in our darkest moments.

  7. You just said it all Jude.Thanks, it means a lot.

  8. Oh John, although I already knew most of your post... It is so touching! Of course no one who didn't go through it will be able to empathize with you and the rest of your family...but be sure... I'll always feel with you!❤

    1. Thanks Tanja and it means a lot to know that.


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