Book Review: Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

If you’re familiar with Bruce Springsteen’s music you’ll know that he’s a songwriter of great skill. He tells stories of everyday life, of characters and their desires and fears. Songs filled with empathy, compassion and insight.

Here he shows all the same talents, this time about his own life. It’s a glorious book, filled with keen observation, insight and moments of humour.

Springsteen captures his childhood in New Jersey, growing up poor and amidst a dysfunctional family. There are large characters here, but it’s his quieter father who looms largest. Tormented by mental health issues exacerbated by drink, his father is a distant figure, one that the young Bruce fears and loves at the same time. The small, scrawny kid feels like a disappointment, or worse an active cause for his father’s disatisfaction. Throughout the book the relationship with his father returns as does Springsteen’s fears that the same darkness lurks within him.

This is one of the things I feel he should be applauded for. There’s an honest assesment of his own mental state, an acknowledgement that it has led to poor relationships and decisions, yet some of it has contributed to his drive. Bouts of depression are relayed without hyperbole or shame, therapy is mentioned and thanked for helping him through his life.

Springsteen is aware of his faults and when things do sour owns his part in them. It’s not all gloomy, there are high points, the joy of love and family, of the contentment he finally finds. And of course there’s the music. 

He captures the excitement and joy of seeing Elvis for the first time, of the shot in the arm that rock ‘n roll provided him, a focus that he would never lose. When he talks about music Springsteen seems invigorated, humming with enthusiasm and energy. He talks about the bands who influenced him, of meeting his heroes and of creating his own place in music history.

There is pride here and references to success, but it never tips into arrogance, not a man boasting, rather a man satisfied with a job well done.

The prose is enthralling and I found myself easily reading for long stretches, happy in the company of the Boss. The writing is captivating, charming and utterly absorbing. It prompted reflection and smiles, and even tears as he discusses the passing of Clarence Clemons, his friend and bandmate.

Autobiographies don’t come much better than this.

Verdict: Fantastic. 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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