In my family, we worship Bruce Springsteen. From my childhood, growing up to select tracks from Born in the USA, to roadtrips soundtracked by Devils & Dust, to the first (and so far only time) half of us (my sister, our dad, and I) saw Bruce live on the Wrecking Ball tour, to our two-year long obsession with his B-side album, The Promise (we listen to it at least once every Sunday when we’re all puttering around the house), we’ve always been fans. So it’s been pretty cool to read about his story in his recent autobiography, Born to Run.
Entirely written by Bruce himself over the course of seven years, Born to Run explains how the Boss became...well, the Boss. His humble beginnings in an Irish/Italian household in New Jersey; his first attempts at putting a band together (over and over again); mastering the art of making music and not just making noise; the birth of the E Street Band and the hit records that came out of that union; and his relationship with his backup singer (and now wife) Patti Scialfa...all that and more, told in his own lyrical words.
For one thing, the man’s memory is remarkable. I can barely remember what I did last week, but he retells anecdotes from the past fifty-ish years with an immediacy that makes you feel like it’s a recent occurrence. It’s also amazing to see just how much he accomplished: he wrote the song “Born to Run” (which is what really launched his career) when he was twenty-five – younger than I am now! And he doesn’t shy away from honesty – he gives you the good, the bad, and the ugly of his life so far, whether it was signing unfair contracts without reading them, or cheating on a girlfriend, or battling with depression and anxiety. It’s all out there for you to read and interpret however you want, giving you the privilege of being inside his head for a few hundred pages before he goes back to being the untouchable, inimitable Boss.
While the whole thing is interesting, some of the cooler elements are when he explains what a particular song or album means – both to him and what he intended for the audience. A lot of his songs are connected, based around a fictional couple, while other tunes are inspired by people he knows in real life (including “The River”, written for his sister). It’s also fascinating to see who his inspirations were: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elvis, Bob Dylan...all bands that I would have lumped into the same category as Springsteen himself because they’re all names from my (and my siblings’) childhoods, and I never stopped to think just when Bruce first made his appearance.
It’s a long road, but it’s worth the read if you’ve ever been a Springsteen fan in your life. At the very least, you’ll come to appreciate just how hard he had to work to get to where he is right now – a lesson in determination, if you will. (And as a bonus, you get photos of young Bruce Springsteen who was quite the looker!).