Born to Run

Born to Run Bruce Springsteen  

“Who were all those strangers buying my music?”

 
I like my favourite musicians’ gods old, grizzled and here, as Bruce Springsteen himself says about himself in his autobiography Born to Run. Not just because I love their music and want to hear and see them play for many years to come, but because I want to read the story of their lives (you know, the kind written after some good decades of living and making music, the kind that takes its own time to be written – Bruce wrote it in the course of seven years). I have liked every musical biography I have read so far. But then again, I haven’t read just about anybody, but about some of the best in music (like this one and this one). And I think part of my fascination with musical autobiographies comes from the fact that their authors are people who have their own voice (and, by that, I don’t mean that they can sing) and their own story to tell, people who have done it all, seen it all, learned a few lessons and lived to tell the story. And because their books, just like their music, reflect experience and the world they come from and live in.

Born to Run bears the hallmarks of having been written by Springsteen’s own hand and I like that. I like the simplicity, the honesty, the talent of describing people, the humour of describing situations. It gets to you. He lays it all out, opening up about his upbringing, his family, anguishes, isolation, hard work, rock musician life without drugs and alcohol (“Music was going to get me as high as I needed to go”), women, depression, wife and family life, fame, rock star ambition, ego, hunger, never-dying dedication, passion and desire to give it all to music and just keep going. What is it that keeps him going? “Friends, that’s the reason we don’t call it ‘working’, it’s called PLAYING! … It’s a life-giving, joyful, sweat-drenched, muscle-aching, voice-blowing, mind-clearing, exhausting, soul-invigorating, cathartic pleasure and privilege every night.”

He may call his work ‘playing’, but he and his band have always taken their fun seriously. At the end of the day and after more than four decades of music, he is still down-to-earth, in check with reality. “Greetings [from Asbury Park, his first album] only sold about twenty-three thousand copies: that was a flop by record company standards but a smash by mine. Who were all those strangers buying my music?”

Bruce Springsteen tells his story not with the aplomb of a rock star, but with the dignity of a hardworking guitar man that he still is. Thank you, Bruce.
 
Bruce Springsteen Born to Run

I loved the story behind the cover photo for the album Born to Run, designed by in-house Columbia art director John Berg, taken by Eric Meola and featuring Bruce and Clarence Clemons. “We used it to invent ourselves, our friendship, our partnership on an epic scale. […] When the cover is closed, the album front is a very charming photo of a young, white, punk rock ‘n’ roller. But when it opens, a band is born and a tall tale begins.”


 

“The guitar! […] the master key, the sword in the stone, the sacred talisman, the staff of righteousness, the greatest instrument of seduction the teenage world has ever known, the… the… answer to my alienation and sorrow, it was a reason to live, to try to communicate with the other poor souls stuck in the same position I was.”


 
“The shows were real, always… my friends were real, always… the audience was real, always.”
 

“I was all I had. I had only one talent. I was not a natural genius. I would have to use every ounce of what was in me –
my cunning, my musical skills, my showmanship, my intellect, my heart, my willingness – night after night, to push myself harder, to work with more intensity than the next guy just to survive untended in the world I lived in.”

photos: 1-by me / 2-Eric Meola


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