Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’: 10 things we learned
Tramps like us: baby, we were born to read.
Hardcore Bruce Springsteen fans will already have a copy of his new memoir, Born to Run. Everybody else should hurry up and get one.
As a writer, Springsteen is funnier than you might expect and adept at getting into the nitty-gritty emotion of his life.
His prose style appears easy-breezy, but he’ll sneak up on you with a lovely turn of phrase or incisive observation that’s profoundly affecting.
Springsteen also admits: “I haven’t told you ‘all’ about myself. Discretion and the feelings of others don’t allow it. But in a project like this, the writer has made one promise: to show the reader his mind.
“In these pages I’ve tried to do that.”
He succeeds. Here are 10 revelations from Born to Run:
1. Depression turns up in Springsteen’s family, particularly affecting his father, Doug. When Springsteen was 16 and his grandmother died, his father became unhinged to the point where Springsteen had to face the fact that his dad was truly not well.
The author is almost too good at describing what it feels like to face the black dogs and in the chapter titled Zero To Sixty In Nothing Flat, he does just that. Depression hounded him when he was in his early 60s, and he writes about how wife, Patti Scialfa, and anti-depressants saved his bacon.
2. You may have known Springsteen was raised Catholic, but the book makes it clear that he was CATHOLIC. He was even an altar boy, and writes about getting cuffed by the priest at a 6 a.m. mass for not knowing his Latin responses.
His fifth grade teacher tried to help:
“Sister Charles Marie, who’d been present at the thrashing, handed me a small holy medal. It was a kindness I’ve never forgotten.”
Anyone who ever got backhanded by a guy in a surplice and cassock can relate.
Doing hard time in ye olde Catholic Church and his often rocky relationship with his father appear to be the crucial elements of Springsteen’s formative years. Not in a good way.
He was eventually able to work things out with his father, however.
3. As he learned to play guitar, a young Springsteen fantasized that the Rolling Stones would come to town, have a crisis and need him to replace an ailing Mick Jagger. The fantasy was always the same: The crowd went wild!
4. Springsteen hates the sound of wind chimes. In his childhood an abusive neighbour had some at his house on Institute Street.
5. At age 21, he didn’t know a single person who’d ever been on a plane, couldn’t drive a car himself and had never had a drink. One of the best things about Born to Run is how Springsteen captures 1950s and ‘60s small-town America and shows how profoundly life has changed for regular working stiffs over the last 60 years.
6. Other than a brief stint tending his aunt’s lawn, Springsteen says he has never worked at anything other than being a musician and performer. That doesn’t mean he didn’t have his doubts. About landing on the covers of both Newsweek and Time magazines in 1975 he writes, “I’d fixed it good so we couldn’t go back, only forward, so that’s where we went.”
7. Thanks to unpaid taxes, lousy first contracts and the usual young artist errors, Springsteen was broke until 1982, a decade after he first signed with Columbia Records.
8. The singer had an unexpected late life friendship with Frank Sinatra, which began after he and his wife were invited to a party by Sammy Cahn’s wife Tita — who Patti had encountered at the nail salon.
9. After the terrifying Northridge earthquake of 1994 in California, where Springsteen and his wife and kids were living at the time (his youngest son had just been born), the singer called Tommy Mottola, then president of Sony, and got a corporate jet to take him and his family back to New Jersey. In a 508-page memoir, that’s the closest thing to any sort of ‘star’ behaviour that ever comes up.
10. He works hard at being a good and present father to his three kids.
“Our house was free of gold albums, Grammys or another musical mementos. My kids didn’t know Badlands from matzo ball soup. When they were children, when I was approached on the street for autographs, I’d explain to them that in my job I was Barney (the then-famous purple dinosaur) for adults.”
Springsteen is straight-up about his kids’ response to seeing his first music video (for Dancing in the Dark) many years after it was made:
“Dad, you look ridiculous!”