Bruce Springsteen’s new memoir, “Born to Run,” tells the tale of a man consumed by ambition and tough clawing towards the goal of making a living in music. There are plenty of hard lessons, as band-mates get tossed, nameless girlfriends appear as pit-stops along the way, and friends are measured by how they can be used to build up a career, but what dominates is a drive to succeed, rather than any particular insight.
While the book disappoints in one way, it does cruise onward with an unstoppable sense of forward motion. There’s a powerful therapeutic reasoning behind Springsteen’s writing, as he tries to understand his father’s inarticulateness that rode the edge between the repression of the 1950s and the growing counterculture of the 1960s.
In between various levels of success, the book details a battle with late-onset depression. It seems something of a sideshow to the main narrative of the music, but the tension involved does provide for a sense of ongoing drama.
At times, like in his artistic career, Springsteen strains for significance. I always preferred his throwaway pop material, like the stuff he wrote for the Pointer Sisters (“Fire”) and the two albums for old-school rocker Gary ‘US’ Bonds, where music is fun, disposable and untethered to stories about lost dreams and crummy economies. But Springsteen himself clearly wants to be taken seriously, hence the epic reach of the tome.
Still, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” is a gripping page-turner that rates as essential reading for any and all of his fans. Those interested in popular culture and autobiographies in general should find it both satisfying and illuminating.