Book: Born To Run
Author: Bruce springsteen
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography:
Like a summer day crawl through an idyllic Southern afternoon, Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography Born to Run opens to a rather photographic flashback of his childhood in Freehold, New Jersey. “Here, on passing afternoons I am Hannibal crossing the Alps, GIs locked in vicious mountain combat and countless cowboy heroes traversing the rocky trails of the Sierra Nevada,” he writes.
The Church towered over the lives of his parents, sister and grandparents; he speaks of the town’s first church service and funeral being officiated in the living room of their house. And of the sepia-toned photo of his aunt Virginia, who was run over by a truck when she was five.
For someone who sold the American Dream for a few good decades, the start is bereft of any adventure. Or so, as Springsteen would like you to believe.
Yet, it takes only a few pages to arrive at a trash heap with Springsteen and his grandfather who gather there to rummage for broken down radios so that his grandfather can fix them in his shed to sell them to Black farmers passing by their town during harvest season. Springsteen himself mowed lawns and painted walls for a whole summer to buy his first guitar for $18. A childhood of working class struggle plays out before the trudge to the American Dream.
Scribbling down the Memoir:
Springsteen has said earlier in interviews that his mother fancied him being a writer. And, he should have perhaps paid heed earlier. Because, there’s a swagger in the prose, an enviable tug that draws one to this honest, tell-all account of a life lived well. What is exceptional, however, for long time fans is that Springsteen scribbled down the memoir (and not typed it) over a period of seven years.
Springsteen’s sense of purpose and honesty has time and again reflected in his music. The Rising was a tribute to 9/11, Devils & Dust was written in the aftermath of the Iraq War, and Wrecking Ball was about the financial meltdown on Wall Street. And last year, after the Trayvon Martin shoot-out, he opened gigs with renditions of American Skin (41 Shots) as a tribute.
Debilitating Relationship with Depression:
Springsteen speaks of his debilitating relationship with depression; of the first time he was arrested by it in the middle of a fair. “From nowhere, a despair overcomes me… right now, all I can think is that I want to be among them, of them, and I know I can’t. I can only watch,” he writes, soon ending in the office of his first therapist at the age of 30.
“Bambi’ tears….‘Old Yeller’ tears. ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ tears…‘I can’t find my keys’ tears.” Perhaps it is years of anti-depressants, his indelible music and the stature of ‘the boss’ by legions of eager and longing fans that have kept the 67-year-old afloat.
He delves deeper into the origin of his emotional fears, and finds its root in his working-class father’s cold and dismissive diffidence. He speaks of the time he was about seven when his father was allowed into the house, and how his mother would drive to the end of town to the bar where Springsteen would make his way through the bar stools to pick up his father. Later, he also lays bare his violent behaviour with women in his early days, describing it as “straight out of the old man’s playbook”.
Worshipped the Beatles:
Springsteen writes about how he hero-worshipped the Beatles, Van Morrison, the Stones, Bob Dylan, and being starstruck while singing I Saw Her Standing There with George Harrison, Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. There’s also an emotive section on Clarence Clemons, Springsteen’s sidekick saxophonist with whom his relationship went back 40 years, set in the hospital where the “Big Man” passed away.
Several times have been written on Springsteen, and the autobiography, with its 79 chapters was not even intended to be a book when it began. But when it nears the epilogue, he writes: “I fought my whole life, studied, played, worked, because I wanted to hear and know the whole story … understand it to free myself of its most damaging influences…to celebrate and honor its beauty.” That’s exactly what he’s done with Born To Run.
Book rating : Four Stars