As a long-standing Springsteen fan, there was never much chance that I wouldn’t enjoy Born to Run, published last month by Simon & Schuster. I like his lyrics and I was curious to see how his writing skills would transfer to a book of memoirs/autobiography. Well, it turns out! I enjoyed the freestyle “tell it as it is” approach, liked the straightforward chronological approach in a narrative covering his work and his life and generally found it to be pretty un-putdownable. Like I said, I’m a fan. You don’t need to be a fan to enjoy the book, but obviously it will speak most to those who love Springsteen, his music, his band and his shows. We are told this is very much his work and I don’t doubt it. There are parts I found a little scrappy and rough around the edges but I think the writing really holds up.
I guess I didn’t learn much that I didn’t already know in terms of hard facts. But there were some amusing anecdotes, how Bruce learnt to drive is nothing short of terrifying! and some moving soul-searching, about his Dad, his depression, his divorce. What I particularly enjoyed, however, is the insight into the making of an artist. I was struck most by how single-minded he was and is about his ambition to make great music. He consistently makes clear in his book is that he calls the shots, makes the decisions, takes the flak, earns the praise…. there’s a reason he’s called the boss…
Sure, he generously shares the praise where praise is due, especially with the E-Street Band of course. But as we know, he also needed – and got – time away from the band (and from other people along the way, too. The passages about Mike Appel and later about his first wife are handled graciously, to my mind). Heck, he managed to basically sack the E-Street band for 10 years or so and then to triumphantly reunite them. This was no quick “let’s do a reunion tour to pay for the swimming pool” stunt, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street band have been touring more or less continuously ever since they got back together in the mid 90s, to the great delight of their legions of fans, myself included.
Going back to the single mindedness, Springsteen makes it clear that he didn’t only want to make it big, he wanted to make a lasting impact. Talk about being driven! He certainly seems to have put the hours in, as evidenced for by the time put into trying to achieve recording perfection and the famously long concerts ever since then. And there’s plenty of evidence of Springsteen constantly pushing himself – and others. At one point in his story, his frustration at finding out there were better musicians out is telling. You certainly get the impression it spurred him on.
Progress from local success in his native New Jersey to global megastardom predictably took a while but Springsteen’s determination, energy, perseverance and commitment to his art are certainly inspiring. This is not to say he never experienced setbacks or doubts, just that he is clearly someone who knows what he wants to do.
And what he does provides so much pleasure to many people that I for one am grateful he took the time to share his thoughts.