Friday, January 6, 2017

Book Review - Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen


Well, after three months, we here are finally able to weigh in on Bruce's highly anticipated autobiography Born To Run.  And, I must say, it lives up to the hype.  This book is an immensely satisfying look into one of the most unique American talents of the 20th century.

Told chronologically and straight-forward, Bruce takes you from his birth until, seemingly, the minute you finish the book.  Like a Springsteen concert, the book is extra-long, clocking in at just over 500 pages (with photos tucked into the back, a nice move since many books awkwardly stick the photo section in the middle).  However, the chapters are short (81 sections including the forward and epilogue), making a perfect "bathroom book" that you can read in small chunks.

The book is appropriately titled Born To Run, as the consistent theme of this book is how much of an "outsider" Bruce has been throughout his life.  He is a man of two worlds - both blue collar and an artist, and straddling the line has caused him alienation from both.  Having his family "abandon" him at 18 surely plays into this, but Bruce finds himself most comfortable on the road, be it driving across the country with a couple of friends or going on months-spanning tours across the globe.  While as a fan, we all have the tendency to be "armchair psychiatrists" to our favorite artists, it is fascinating to see Bruce open up in his own words.

Throughout it all, Bruce remains humble, almost to a fault.  He doesn't try to be your friend, but doesn't wallow in self-pity, either.  There are no salacious "rock star" stories either, as there's just a tale or two involving tequila, and the only relationships he dives into are his two marriages. (Bruce blames his past relationships failing on his immaturity and insecurities, but come on Bruce - there had to be at least one crazy girl in that mix!)  Perhaps the most unexpected confession comes at the end, where Bruce discusses how he views his own voice (for good and for bad).

Nearly every step of his career is covered, with special attention paid, unsurprisingly, to Born To Run and, surprisingly, to Wrecking Ball.  The biggest omissions were Lucky Town and Human Touch, which were not even mentioned by name in the book.  During that time, the book focuses on his children, which may be all that needs to be said about why these albums were skipped over.  Unlike many of the Springsteen biography's I've read in the past, Bruce doesn't skim when it comes to his later career, as he discusses with particular care the controversy surrounding "American Skin" as well as The Rising and its role post-9/11.

So, I know I'm late to the party, but if you are a Springsteen fan, this is an absolute must read.  I have read many books about Springsteen in the past, but this is easily the best.  Despite Clarence's disappointing autobiography, this has me itching for more E Street books - could Little Stevie be next?