Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (September 27, 2016)

I try mainly to ignore popular culture.  Yet, this Bruce Springsteen biography is more than that because Bruce Springsteen is more than a pop culture figure.  He is an artist, a bard, a raconteur of folklore following the likes of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. His songs tell the story of the working poor, the outcasts, and how an unfair socio-economic system keeps them down.  I can relate to that.

Bruce tells the story, in gripping prose, of how an artist rose up from a most unlikely place.  There was nothing in his favor and many things against him: low socio-economic status; minimal education; difficult family life; poverty; mental illness in the family; plus the alcoholism, mental illness and abusive nature of his father. He had no support system; no one who believed in him; a family that abandoned him. How could he rise up to be the greatest poet bard since Bob Dylan?

There’s something in him…  This biography gives a glimpse into the creative life of an artist.  Springsteen’s painful search for recording perfection is described.  His trials with legal and marketing forces are laid bare. He wrestles with his own personal demons and open wounds. I note that he has no hostility about the failings of his family.  He is past all that.  Instead, he appreciates the gift of their grit and great quirkiness. All this is described vibrantly.  The man has a way with words.  It also is apparent that he is a bright guy, who has studied, accumulated, and integrated into his being a great deal of knowledge about literature, cultures, politics, and economics. (I was surprised to read that he is a fan of Flannery O’Connor and American Gothic – like me.) The man has insight into his failings and admits to them. I was pleased to read that he came to terms with his demons, married a brilliant and lovely woman, and is surrounded by the joy family and children bring. Around the time I read this book, Springsteen was honored by President Obama and awarded the Medal of Freedom. I was pleased.  Great job sneaking that in Obama! 

On a personal note, I first became aware of Bruce Springsteen around 1975-1976, when I started college in Syracuse, NY – near my rural hometown.  College brought with it cruel barbs from downstate kids who considered upstate New Yorkers to be ignorant farmers etc.  (It always surprised me that people who pride themselves on being worldly and sophisticated, are so quick to make judgements about folks who live nearby in their same state.)  Thus by the time I heard the anthem Born to Run, I was suspicious of anything that came from downstate NY environs (including New Jersey). I could not deny that Springsteen had a good song and album.  Yet, I had my suspicions about anything downstate and Born To Run was so overplayed that I became sick of it.  Springsteen, bleh. Time passed. I did like his album, The River.  Many did not like The River, since it was dark, moody, and solitary.  I eat that stuff up.  Thanks to The River, I looked into Springsteen’s other albums, bought a few of them, and liked them a lot. I play them in my car to this day.

I wanted to see Bruce in concert at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, around 1984.  By then I had finished graduate school and was working a job. I tried to give my graduate school boyfriend, who was working on his PH.D. some cash to walk over to the Dome and buy us tickets.  He refused, since he was even worse (or better?) then I at hating anything pop culture.  I was disappointed and took his refusal as a bad omen.  I knew what Jane Austen would think…  If a suitor will not even walk a few yards from SUNY Forestry to the Carrier Dome to buy a gal concert tickets when she is providing the money, well….   You can guess the rest. I missed the concert and was very disappointed. Thanks (?) to Bruce I had the first inkling that my relationship was doomed.

Twenty years later I did see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in concert.  This was approximately 2003 at Darien Lake, NY.  I brought my ten-year- old son.  The concert was fabulous.  It took me nearly twenty years to see the Boss in person, but it was worth the wait. Still I am no one’s FAN, but I am a fan of Bruce Springsteen.