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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

Avery Sunshine is known for her irresistible combination of soul, jazz and gospel influences. She’s traveled the world entertaining audiences with her powerful voice, inspiring lyrics and infectious spirit. She joins host Shawna Renee on "The Soul Lounge" to perform and share the stories behind her new album, "The Sun Room."