News / Arts & Entertainment

'Bruce' Reveals How Springsteen's Past Shaped his Art

Musician Bruce Springsteen stands on stage at the Stand Up for Heroes event at Madison Square Garden, Nov. 7, 2013, in New York.
Musician Bruce Springsteen stands on stage at the Stand Up for Heroes event at Madison Square Garden, Nov. 7, 2013, in New York.
Richard Paul
There have been many books written about Bruce Springsteen since he first became a sensation in 1975.  But there’s something unusual about the new book “Bruce” by Peter Ames Carlin.  Unlike the others, Carlin wrote his book with The Boss’s cooperation.

“He and his family really opened up - I mean - besides Bruce, he opened the door to his mom and his sisters and his cousins and aunts,” he said.

'Bruce' Reveals How Springsteen's Past Shaped his Art
'Bruce' Reveals How Springsteen's Past Shaped his Arti
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

​That access gives readers a brand-new look at the demons that haunted and drove Springsteen - and new insight into how those struggles touched his life and shaped his art.  Most important, Carlin says, are revelations about the psychiatric problems that plagued Springsteen’s father, Douglas.  For example, Carlin says, there’s a reason for all the discord and anger in songs such as “Adam Raised a Cain.”

"A lot of that goes back to how chaotic his family was, as a result of his father," he said. "But the fact that they were really a hop skip and a jump from the poverty line for most of his childhood - that also informs his sociocultural perspective. His perspective on society and politics is about protecting the people who are the most disenfranchised, because that's how he felt - entirely disenfranchised, both from his father and from the society around him.”

x
Of course the book’s not all psycho-drama.  Carlin was also able to pull together and then confirm some classic stories from Springsteen’s life.  Like the night 19-year-old Bruce waited backstage at a Janis Joplin concert in New Jersey trying to arrange a date with the singer.

“She came on stage and caught a glance at Bruce and all of her lights seemed to ignite. And by the end of the show, she was - Bruce sort of noticed her ardor and blew out the door as fast as he could and took off into the night because I think he sensed that, at 19 years old, he could not handle the tornado of Janis Joplin,” Carlin said.

Carlin also reveals that shortly after “Born To Run” made Springsteen’s band the biggest act in rock, “They were bankrupt. They were more bankrupt than they were before,” Carlin said.

Springsteen was suing his manager at the time.  The lawsuit sapped his creative energy and drained all his finances.  During those days, Springsteen, the international rock star would stand in line outside the club he used to play at on New Jersey’s Atlantic Shore.

“At the Stone Pony, he would just line up with everybody else," Carlin said. "And the owner of the club told me that he saw Bruce at the end of the line sort of digging into his pockets for change so he can make the $2 cover charge.”

Carlin also got Springsteen to explain why, for so many years after he became famous, he refused to write songs with mass, popular appeal.

“He thought, ‘You know, enough of that.’ He didn't want to get into that trap like Michael Jackson fell into of even after you have created this huge, smash that is magnitudes bigger than anything you have done before, he didn't want to get stuck in the groove of trying to re-create that, or be bigger and better the next time out,” he said.

Carlin says he learned the myth of Bruce Springsteen - the artist who never abandoned his working class roots and who, despite his wealth, still sides with the little guy - is no myth at all.

“When he gets up in the morning, and goes to - stumbles to the mirror, the guy he sees in the mirror is still the same loser - lower working-class kid - that the other kids taunted because he was so weird,” he said.

The frayed, rundown glamour of the New Jersey beaches where he blossomed as a musician, and the struggle of the people who live there, are still part of Bruce Springsteen. And it’s still part of his music.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Troops Depart

Afghans are grappling with how exodus will affect country's fragile economy More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”