Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography “Born To Run” clearly identifies the man behind the music.
Noteworthy for being a rather private person, Springsteen opens up to his readers in this 500-plus page tale of barely surviving to living large with everything in between.
Although he has prevailed a lot in his nearly seventy years, Bruce has also been able to do the only thing he ever set out to do: create music.
The reader starts off being exposed to Springsteen’s early New Jersey life, growing up in an Irish-Italian household with a life-loving mother and a moody, bi-polar, hard-working alcoholic father. The oldest of three, Bruce writes about life with his parents, siblings and grandparents during his early years. Once his immediate family moved out of his grandmother’s house, Bruce often returned to stay with his grandparents, particularly his grandmother, whom he talks about as being his sanctuary from his parental household.
Springsteen talks of his love-hate relationship with his father Doug and how he gained his love of music from his mother, Adele. The love and attention Bruce lacked from his father he received from his mother. He talks of his mother always “having his back”. She was there for Bruce, whether it was attending one of his baseball games or renting his first electric guitar, after Bruce’s witnessing Elvis Presley on “Ed Sullivan”.
Following the American breakthrough of the Beatles and his decision to teach himself Keith Richards’s guitar solo to “It’s All Over Now”, because he was determined to play lead guitar, Bruce became a member of his first band, the Castiles. He followed that band up with Steel Mill. In between bands and traveling the Jersey shore or cross country performing gigs, Springsteen would gradually cross paths with the other musicians who would eventually form the E Street Band.
Throughout the book Springsteen touches on certain events that affected him one way or another: his legal disputes with former manager Mike Appel; his introduction to Jon Landau, the man who would eventually turn his career around; his parents’ move from New Jersey to California; his depression and subsequent treatment of; his first marriage to actress Julianne Phillips and his second marriage to E Street singer Patti Scialfa, with whom he has three children.
The author delves into each of his albums, speaking about the particular songs on each that broke the musical barrier for him. One such album Springsteen writes about is “The Ghost of Tom Joad”. In writing about this album, he resonates with the present times as he states: “ ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’ chronicled the effects of the increasing economic division of the eighties and nineties, the hard times and consequences that befell many of the people whose work and sacrifice created America and whose labor is essential to our everyday lives. We are a nation of immigrants and no one knows who’s coming across our borders today, whose story might add a significant page to our American story. Here in the early years of our new century, as at the turn of the last, we are once again at war with our “new Americans”. As in the last, people will come, will suffer hardship and prejudice, will do battle with the most reactionary forces and hardest hearts of their adopted home and will prove resilient and victorious”.
“Born To Run” is a lengthy but worthy read. Considering the twenty Grammy Awards, the Academy Award and many other accolades he’s achieved over the years, Bruce Springsteen has lived and still lives a full life and has a lot to say about it.