The first song on the first day was “Badlands” by Bruce Springsteen.
It was November 2000, just about twenty years ago, in one-half of one-half of a duplex on Columbia Avenue. Windows open, cold air blowing through my kitchen office, I turned it up so loud the whole zip code could sing along.
Something about that song—the way it captures the duality of life, the duality of the journey.
It’s so angry, but so uplifting.
So indignant, but so driven.
It sounds like a coming-of-age,
like a revolution,
like a rebirth;
it sounds like signing your name in blood,
swearing you’ll never settle, never quit, never take the easy way.
“Badlands” sounds like you just took the hardest punches of your life—body blow, body blow, jab, jab, uppercut, uppercut—and then a heavy one square in the chest, followed by one like a cinder block upside your head, and you’re lying flat on your back barely blinking, but one long breath later you’re on two knees, and then on one foot and one knee, and slowly you’ve picked yourself up, and you’re on two feet, wobbling a bit, and while you sway you wipe away a faceful of sweat, and you lift your chin and stare tomorrow in the eye, and:
“For the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside
that it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive
I wanna find one face that ain’t looking through me
I wanna find one place
I wanna spit in the face
Of these badlands,” One Lucky Guitar was born howling.
We’ve spent the last fifteen and a half years on Lafayette Street, in downtown Fort Wayne.
Every moment of every day, music has pushed us forward, pulled us along, held us steady and lifted us up.
Music has made victories that much sweeter, more cathartic and more triumphant.
Music is the motivation, the ignition—the spark in the cylinder, the pistol that starts the footrace—every single morning.
Music has made our high-fives higher, our laughs louder, our smiles wider, and, when we allow ourselves, our hugs longer.
Music is how we’ve celebrated the good times, overcome the challenging times, and endured the hard times.
Same is true now, as we’ve returned to the roots of OLG, working out of our homes—sometimes in our kitchens, with the windows wide open, filling our neighborhoods with songs.
A few years ago, Middle Waves Music Festival crescendoed in the heart of downtown Fort Wayne with a rousing, soul-pounding statement of purpose: “Momentum has a soundtrack, and it’s loud.”
In the 2000’s, this community has grown stronger, more vibrant, more exciting, more engaging, more prosperous, more welcoming and more livable in so many ways. There’s further to go—there are no finish lines—but we’re clocking miles.
Somehow, it feels like music has been a part of every step of that growth. Every step forward, filled with songs of celebration, songs of joy, songs of love and resilience and journeys and destinations and anger and laughter and struggle and willpower and anxiety and history and connectedness and community and survival.
Songs of soul and songs of perseverance, always there.
Even in the distance, almost out of earshot, almost out of view—the backbeat persisted.
God forbid any of us ever took this soundtrack for granted.
We certainly won’t today, or tomorrow, or maybe ever again.
Because we need it now, like never before.
Today, we’re all a little anxious. We’re all a little afraid.
None of us have ever been through this before. Not our caregivers, not our artists, not our students, not our educators, not our volunteers, not our nonprofits, not our small businesses, not our massive corporations, not our government.
So very importantly:
not our friend circles.
Not our families.
So today, let’s play the music loudly.
Let it soundtrack the grace we give each other, and the grace we give ourselves.
Let it soundtrack our comeback.
Let it soundtrack our finest moments, again.
Tune it in, and turn it up.
At OLG, we arrived here on the back of Bruce Springsteen’s words. And we’re going to get through all of this the same way:
if you can,
and meet me in the dream
of this hard land.”
It’s our pleasure to share the OLG’s Perseverance Playlist, an evolving collection of songs that are motivating us as we create, guiding us to think deeply, and inspiring us as we persist—and push forward.
We’ll share a lot of what this means in our wide, wide circle in the coming weeks.
Music is our fuel, and we’re excited to see how it might keep you, us, and those we all care about, running strong as we cover these many, many miles—together.