Bruce’s human touch makes lawyer a lifelong fan

Everybody’s got a hungry heart.

Cynthianne Morgan knows this for sure.

Morgan, wife of Birmingham trial lawyer Joe W. Morgan III, has heard those words so often in her Shelby County home, they’ve almost become gospel.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band via

The lyrics and music of one famous musician speak directly to the heart of her 38-year-old husband, who grew up in Eatontown, N.J., just 5 miles away from Asbury Park.

Joe Morgan is such a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, he arranged for the piano player at their wedding to play “Jungleland” as the guests were seated.

He bought a DVD player when and only when Springsteen came out with a film in that format.

His appointment book for 2002 is dotted with red notations marking the dates and locations of Springsteen concerts, including Tuesday’s at the BJCC Arena.

He has been in the Boss’ audience more than 40 times, and saw a dozen of Springsteen’s shows during the 1999-2000 reunion tour with the E Street Band.

His cell phone is a lifeline for friends who want the answers to Springsteen trivia questions, hoping to win free tickets.

“If there was a Bruce Springsteen quiz show, nobody else would stand a chance,” Morgan says proudly. “Go ahead, try to stump me.”

Over the mantle in the Morgans’ home hangs a photo of Cynthianne, Joe and the Boss, taken backstage during a 2000 meeting arranged by Springsteen’s wife, Jersey girl Patti Scialfa. She shot the photo, too, making it doubly precious.

“He’s not just a bubblegum pop singer,” Morgan says. “He translates emotion better than anybody I’ve ever seen. He can make you feel. His messages force you to look yourself in the mirror and figure out who you are.”

Morgan was born in Mobile, but spent nearly eight of his formative years living with his parents on a military base near the Atlantic Ocean. Like lots of other youths there, he sniffed salt and marsh air, cruised on the Garden State Parkway, flipped through the record racks at Jack’s Music Shoppe in Red Bank and tried, unsuccessfully, to sneak into the Stone Pony.

By the time Morgan graduated from Monmouth Regional High School in 1981, Springsteen had evolved from local hero to international star. His gritty, poetic rock ‘n’ roll songs “Thunder Road,” “Blinded by the Light,” “Badlands,” “Prove it All Night” and, of course, “Born to Run” formed the soundtrack to Morgan’s life.

They continue to fill that role today, 21 years later, even though Morgan left the Jersey seashore behind and made his home in Alabama. The Springsteen catalog is much larger now; Morgan is a responsible family man with a busy white-collar career and a 7-year-old daughter, Joanne.

But he’s still listening to the old albums and buying the new ones. He’s still talking to friends from his high-school days, reminiscing about the past and trading Springsteen trivia.

He’s still collecting Bruce memorabilia that includes picture discs, books, photos and limited-edition imports. He’s still buying as many tickets as he can to concerts that feel like “being at a big party with 17,000 of your best friends.”

Morgan has eight tickets to Tuesday’s date at the BJCC; the event is an important one, he says, because it’ll be Joanne’s first time in the audience. Slowly but surely, he’s passing on his appreciation for Springsteen to the girl, who favors the frothy sound of Britney Spears.

“I caught her singing `Countin’ on a Miracle’ in her room the other day,” Morgan says with a grin. “I think her favorite on `The Rising’ is `Lonesome Day.’”

What’s the best Springsteen album, in Morgan’s opinion? “Darkness on the Edge of Town.”

His least favorite tune? The Oscar-winning “Streets of Philadelphia.”

The Springsteen Web site he prefers?

The song he longs to hear in concert? “Racing in the Street.”

The band member he likes most, aside from the Boss? Patti, hands down.

She, after all, is the one who ushered Joe and Cynthianne to Springsteen’s dressing room after an Atlanta performance two years ago, fulfilling one of Morgan’s wildest dreams.

He had chatted with Scialfa earlier that day, making the most of a chance encounter in a hotel restaurant. Morgan immediately mentioned his New Jersey connections: Scialfa responded with enthusiasm.

Before you could say “Tunnel of Love,” Scialfa had taken down Morgan’s name, promised backstage passes and suggested that she arrange a personal introduction to her husband.

“She didn’t have to be nearly that nice,” Morgan says. “He didn’t have time to meet with everyone, but he met with us. We spent 20 minutes talking to him, and there were only six people in his dressing room. My wife says it’s the only time she’s ever seen me nervous.”

Above all, Morgan says, he wanted to thank Springsteen for his music and share the affection he still feels for the Garden State. He hoped to get an autograph on a special LP from his collection and maybe shake hands. Mission accomplished.

The warm shock of hearing Springsteen say his name, face-to-face, in that earthy, familiar voice was just a bonus.

“For most of my life, it seems like I’ve been headed to the beach, listening to Springsteen,” Morgan says. “After meeting him, I thought I’d be on Cloud 9 for a week. Turns out I’ve been on Cloud 9 for two years.”