Bruce Springsteen is an American icon and this book, his own story in his own words, lays bare the man behind the songs. The pages are filled with the kind of imagery that fills his lyrics, but at the service of telling his own truth, not that of one of his characters.
From hard working class beginnings in Jersey, Springsteen reveals a man driven to write, play, sing and perform. A man bitten by the rock ‘n’ roll bug who sought to emulate his heroes: Dylan, Hendrix, The Stones, The Beatles, and in the process created the last great Rock ‘n’ Roll band – The E Street Band. He never did a day’s work in a “proper job”. It was music or nothing. Aware of his own limitations he forged a career through sheer force of will, talent and great songs.
He speaks openly of his emotionally distant father (subject and subtext of many of his songs) and, most surprising and revealing, his own battles with depression and emotional unavailability. This was a side of Springsteen I knew nothing about, but he talks about it with great candour. Therapy and medication, as well as the love of a good woman and a stable family life, have helped him through.
The first half of the book is the most fascinating, as Springsteen finds his music, what he wants to say and how he wants to say it. The creation of his band, the legal battles with his first manager and his growing confidence as an artist until the commercial breakthrough of Born in The USA propels him into the superstar stratosphere, it’s all told with honesty and humour.
Springsteen gives great insight into his thought processes with regard to songwriting, the shifts in focus as the years progress, the striving for a voice to reflect the lives of his fans, the blue-collar, working classes that America was built on.
The latter half of the book, once he’s a settled family man does descend into a few chapters of album – tour – album – tour, but then come the losses: his father; E Street keyboard player Danny Federici and, of course, the Big Man himself, Clarence Clemons. Springsteen is 67. It’s an inevitable part of life that his peers start vanishing. These episodes are movingly told, full of love for the departed.
This is a great rock autobiography and the seven years it took to write have paid off handsomely. The story isn’t over, of course. Springsteen continues to make music and tour and looks like he will well into his 70s. But for now, this will do nicely.
Length of Read:Medium
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
The music of The Boss, or anyone interested in rock ‘n’ roll music, its mythology and exponents.
One thing you’ve learned
That there are always things below the surface of any artist. Sometimes surprisingly so. And that Springsteen has written some truly great rock songs.