Joe Grushecky Reflects on a Rockin' 'Good Life' Joe Grushecky has been delivering hard-driving, Pittsburgh-style rock' n' roll for three decades. On his latest CD, on which he's joined by songwriting partner Bruce Springsteen, the 50-something musician reflects on aging, family and other important things in life.
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Joe Grushecky Reflects on a Rockin' 'Good Life'

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Joe Grushecky Reflects on a Rockin' 'Good Life'

Joe Grushecky Reflects on a Rockin' 'Good Life'

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In these days of techno-pop and hip-hop it's easy to forget the joys of true, hard-driving rock and roll - music about lost dreams and star-crossed love, about working hard and longing for the weekend.

For rock and roll fans in Pittsburgh, Joe Grushecky and his band The Houserockers have personified that kind of music for three decades. Grushecky's latest album titled “A Good Life” delivers another dose, including this dark love song, “Code of Silence.”

(Soundbite of song “Code of Silence”)

Mr. JOE GRUSHECKY (Musician): (Singing) There's a code of silence that we don't dare speak...

YDSTIE: Joe Grushecky joins us from the studios of station WYEP in Pittsburgh. Welcome.

Mr. GRUSHECKY: Hi, John. How are you?

YDSTIE: I'm well, thank you.


YDSTIE: You wrote this song with Bruce Springsteen, and he sings it with you on this album. How did it come about that you wrote it together?

Mr. GRUSHECKY: Bruce and I did an album together in 1995 called “American Babylon” that he produced. And during the course of that project we struck up a songwriting partnership also. So we've written some songs over the years. Most of them have been on my records, but Bruce recorded “Code of Silence” on a record called “Essentials.” He put it out as a bonus track and it won a Grammy for best rock performance for Bruce.

YDSTIE: That must have been a thrill for you as well as him.

Mr. GRUSHECKY: Well, sure, you know. I mean any time you can work with a guy like Bruce Springsteen, you know, when we're just the little guys here in Pittsburgh, it's a big thrill, you know.

(Soundbite of song “Code of Silence”)

Mr. GRUSHECKY: (Singing) There's a wall between us and the river's deep. And we keep pretending that there's nothing wrong. But there's a code of silence that can't go on, can't go on, can't go on...

YDSTIE: You know, it's hard to read a review of your music without running across a comparison to Springsteen.

Mr. GRUSHECKY: Well, it's sort of double-edged sword, you know. He casts a big shadow, but, you know, I had quite a career long before Bruce. And you work with one of the best and I think that says something about your talent also.

YDSTIE: You know, the reviewers inevitably wonder why he became a megastar and why you never quite broke through nationally. Why do you think that was?

Mr. GRUSHECKY: Well, you know, to break through nationally you have to have everything firing on all cylinders, firing at the same time. You know, you have to have the management, the song, the hit record, the video. You know, tell you what our career is like. When MTV first approached us about video, we were just nah, we don't want to do a video, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

YDSTIE: Big mistake.

Mr. GRUSHECKY: So that shows our business acumen.

YDSTIE: You seem to be dealing with your fate, maybe embracing it, actually, coming to terms with being a 50-something rocker in this album on a number of songs, including one titled “A Good Life.” Let's listen to that right now.

Mr. GRUSHECKY: All right.

(Soundbite of song “A Good Life”)

Mr. GRUSHECKY: (Singing) I got two kids, two cats, a good dog and a lucky hat, an old house, a fast car, but I don't go very far. I got a beautiful wife and I'm leading a good life.

YDSTIE: Now the next cut on the album deals with the same subject but the tone is a lot darker. It's a cut called “Beauty Fades.”

Mr. GRUSHECKY: Right, well, it's not meant to be a dark song; it's meant to embrace and love the things that last, you know, not the momentary. Because after a while, all the shine wears off everything, you know, and it's looking underneath to find out what's really important.

YDSTIE: And you've got your guitar there. Would you mind playing it for us?

Mr. GRUSHECKY: Love to.

(Soundbite of guitar)

Mr. GRUSHECKY: (Singing) Beauty fades, dreams disappear, all the noise makes it hard to hear. Children grow, say goodbye. All that's left is you and I. That's okay. It's all right. It's just life.

YDSTIE: It's a beautiful song.

Mr. GRUSHECKY: Thank you.

YDSTIE: There's a lot of talk about getting old on this album.

(Soundbite of laughter)

YDSTIE: How do you feel about that?

Mr. GRUSHECKY: That's because I am getting old. I think, you know, if you become more comfortable with who you are and you feel more comfortable in your skin and you feel like you've accomplished something, and for me the big turning point was having kids. And they're getting older now and my son is following in my footsteps. He plays acoustic guitar on “Code of Silence.” And, you know, having him around is really an inspiration and, you know, I'm still blessed to be able to play my music and make records even though, you know, I never did make the big paydays. Like a lot of people always say, oh, you never made it big. I made it big to me when I, you know, I recorded my first record.

YDSTIE: Let me ask you about one other song on this album that is very powerful. It's called “Safe at Home.” Tell us a little bit about that.

Mr. GRUSHECKY: “Safe at Home” is, you know, a father's plea that his son makes it home safe. That's in my case; it could be a daughter, it could be anyone. It could be, you know, a person returning home for Iraq safely or Afghanistan. You know, for any loved one stepping out from that safe haven. You know, there's always a prayer that they make it home safely.

(Soundbite of song “Safe at Home”)

Mr. GRUSHECKY: (Singing) Father, can you hear me? Mother Mary (unintelligible). Stand beside him and protect him. Won't you please help keep him safe.

YDSTIE: You know, we talked about getting old. You talk a lot about getting old on this album. And I can't help but mention the cover to the CD. There's a full, frontal picture of your beautiful Guild guitar there.


YDSTIE: And then...

(Soundbite of laughter)

YDSTIE: ...there's the back of you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GRUSHECKY: Well, the thought behind it was the Guild looked better than I did.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GRUSHECKY: Looks better than I do (unintelligible). I thought it conveyed the idea of the record that, you know, you could be at peace with yourself and it is a good life and be thankful for what you have. I mean that's sort of the themes of the record - hold the ones you love near.

YDSTIE: Joe Grushecky's new CD is titled “A Good Life.” Thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. GRUSHECKY: Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

YDSTIE: More of Joe Grushecky's music is at

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm John Ydstie.


Steve will be back on Monday. I'm Renee Montagne.

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