Born to Run

Born to Run

by Bruce Springsteen

Overview:Over the past seven years, Bruce Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life. The result is “an utterly unique, endlessly exhilarating, last-chance-power-drive of a memoir” (Rolling Stone) that offers the same honesty, humor, and originality found in his songs. He describes growing up Catholic in Freehold, New Jersey, amid the poetry, danger, and darkness that fueled his imagination, leading up to the moment he refers to as “The Big Bang”: seeing Elvis Presley’s debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. He vividly recounts his relentless drive to become a musician, his early days as a bar band king in Asbury Park, and the rise of the E Street Band. With disarming candor, he also tells for the first time the story of the personal struggles that inspired his best work.

Rarely has a performer told his own story with such force and sweep. Like many of his songs (“Thunder Road,” “Badlands,” “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “The River” “Born in the U.S.A,” “The Rising,” and “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” to name just a few), Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography is written with the lyricism of a singular songwriter and the wisdom of a man who has thought deeply about his experiences. “Both an entertaining account of Springsteen’s marathon race to the top and a reminder that the one thing you can’t run away from is yourself” (Entertainment Weekly), Born to Run is much more than a legendary rock star’s memoir. This book is a “a virtuoso performance, the 508-page equivalent to one of Springsteen and the E Street Band's famous four-hour concerts: Nothing is left onstage, and diehard fans and first-timers alike depart for home sated and yet somehow already aching for more” (NPR).

Faith Bowers (12/03/17): I listened to 16 discs which means that this memoir is very long. Unfortunately, it is very wordy and repetitive. You get used to it and I did enjoy the memoir. He writes like he is writing his songs where you do repeat chorus and lines. The book could have used a good editor. I was into Jazz music when Springstein became famous with his music and his band and so he was not part of my music history. That is why I liked hearing about his life, his challenges both before he made it big and even during the 35 years of success. He has values that I share. Doing one’s best and always growing so though you could cut out half of this memoir I still thought it was a good listen.
Rating: ***

Deanna Boe (10/10/17):
My father’s house shines hard and bright.
It stands like a beacon calling me in the night
Calling and calling so cold and alone
Shining cross this dark highway
Where our sins lie unatoned…..
“My Father’s House”

I hate to admit it, but other then the fact Bruce Springsteen wrote “Born in the U.S. of A,” I knew very little about him or his songs. I am not sure what pushed me to put his book, BORN TO RUN, on hold at the library, but I am very happy I did. It is great to break away and read books that are entirely different from the usual genre one usually do. Springsteen does an outstanding job writing about his life, his love of music, his family, his band and his hometown. His song, “Born in the U.S. of A” will always bring back memories of the first Gulf War. I was teaching military high school students in Seoul, Korea; this was up close and personal since it affected their Fathers and their Mothers. We were gathered in the gym and the next thing I knew all the students made a huge circle, held hands while this song was sung. Just thinking about it can bring tears to my eyes.

Springsteen is very forthright about his life. He did not have an easy upbringing. His father (they learned much later in life) suffered from a mental illness. He was extremely hard on his son and never encouraged him in the musical area, that fell to his Mother. Besides helping him to scrape together $69 to buy his first guitar, Bruce believes she taught him: “truthfulness, consistency, professionalism, kindness, compassion, manners, thoughtfulness, pride in yourself, honor, love, faith in and fidelity to your family, commitment, joy in your work, and a never-say-die thirst for life.” Amazingly enough, it was this cheap Kent guitar that set Bruce on the path to stardom, all of which he gives credit to his Mother and her belief in him. The closest he ever felt to his Father happened much later in life when he said to Bruce he was happy Bruce had never listened to him and worked in manual labor as he had told him to do. Once Springsteen left Freeport, New Jersey, he never returned there to live again, but it was never far from his heart as you can tell by the song he wrote “My Hometown.” This is so true for many of us who leave our hometowns, the feelings instilled are never far from our hearts.

Springsteen is quite the writer. He is extremely verbose. As you can tell with how he describes his Mother above. Since he has written all of his own songs, why not a book about his life? He remembers so much and I am sure he omitted lots to keep the book at 508 pages. One story he included was about a man he met on his first trip to California. (That trip alone is an amazing three day drive straight through with Bruce driving part of the way and he had never been behind the wheel of a car before!) Bruce was sitting on a bench looking at the Pacific Ocean and started to talk to the man next to him. The man said: “I’ve made a lot of money and I’m not happy.” Bruce goes on to write: “It’d be years before I’d have to wrestle with that one, but there was something about him that touched me.”

Springsteen was extremely loyal to the men who played in his band, the most famous one being the E Street Band. One man in particular that Bruce was especially close to was Clarence who happened to be African-American. He was a tremendous sax player. He tells how they “had as deep a relationship as I can imagine, but we lived in the real world, where we’d experienced that nothing, not all the love in God’s heaven, obliterates race.” What a profound and sad statement that is.

This book is full of insightful thoughts about life and how even what appears to be perfect isn’t always true. Springsteen suffered at the age of 60 a mental breakdown, he had inherited some of the same problems that had pursued his Father all of his life. Bruce is upfront about not only that but all of his life. True, he is loquacious and there are sections that one can quickly skim over, but it is a thoughtful book and well worth reading. Rating: *****

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