Like many aging men, I got a copy of Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run for Christmas, which I’ve just finished.
A tremendous read and one of the best ever rock biographies or autobiographies.
The terse, pared-down detail evinced in Springsteen’s music and lyrics is also present in his prose style, which is modern and vibrant..he DOES THAT a lot, but it is all acceptable in context.
He is uniquely impressive in having a sober and accurate impression of the depth and breadth of his talent as a musician (as well as his shortcomings in that field…not for Bruce any of the “gee, shucks, I got lucky” shruggings all too present in artists’ autobiographies;) he spells out in great detail how hard he worked to hone the talents he realised early on were his, the nights and nights of watching the lead guitar player in visiting touring bands then going home and practising what he had seen until falling asleep with the guitar on his chest; the realisation on first hearing a recording of his singing that he would have to make some other efforts in the presentation of his vocals. There is no false modesty, either in this or in his portrayal of the benevolent dictatorship which was the E Street Band.
Plenty detail on all periods of his career, which is great given that most people in his position would have concentrated on the years of extreme fame. For those of us who believe he was never as good as the first few albums, this is a boon – there’s lots of stories of the times and circumstances when he was writing and performing as well as this;
Particularly good are his descriptions of people’s entries and exits to and from the world – his childrens’ births and developments, the deaths of Danny Federici, Clarence Clemons, his father…unromantic, but deeply felt and effectively communicated vignettes.
Also uniquely, one does not anticipate a follow up volume in years to come. There is the distinct impression that he has said all he wants to say and is satisfied with how he has said it.
The clip below was the first thing that most people in the UK saw of the exotic legend that was the early Bruce Springsteen, screened on The Old Grey Whistle Test – I remember watching it a lot in Bruce’s in Rose Street Edinburgh on the brand new video tape machine…
He was at least as good a few years later in 1981 on The River tour at The Edinburgh Playhouse, but that is another story…