Contentment is not one of Bruce Springsteen’s favorite themes. But one of the greatest songs he’s ever written about it is “Happy,” a Lucky Town outtake that wound up on his 1998 boxed set, Tracks.
That said, the song is not exactly a simplistic ode to joy. A mournful synth part (played by Roy Bittan) seems to be at odds with the lyrics, and Springsteen sings in a way that may strike some as sad (though I prefer to hear it as relaxed and soulful). He even acknowledges that “at night I feel the darkness near” and that “in this world … trouble (is) never far behind.” Yet, he’s found happiness via love, and that’s enough for now.
For all its somberness, “Happy” still offers some subtle thrills. Listen to Springsteen’s voice rise as he sings “I don’t need that sky of blue, babe/All I know, since I found you, I’m happy” in the first verse, and when he gets to that point in the melody in the song’s other two verses.
That’s not Fourth of July fireworks, admittedly. But it’s exciting enough for me.
Background facts: “Happy” was recorded in 1992 but not released until it was included on Springsteen’s 1998 rarities-and-outtakes boxed set, Tracks. According to Brucebase, he has never performed it in concert.
On each of the 70 days leading up to Bruce Springsteen’s 70th birthday (on Sept. 23, 2019), NJArts.net will do a post on one of The Boss’ best songs of the last 30 years. We’re starting with No. 70 and working our way up. For more on the project, click here.
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