I may not be the biggest Springsteen fan on earth (I’ll admit, I’ve never been to a show), but I’m pretty infatuated with The Boss – the tunes, the stories in the lyrics, the deep fried American vibes that seep out of my car speakers everytime I hear him on the radio.
So when I heard that he was releasing an autobiography, I was pretty excited to read it. The most fascinating thing about Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run is the distinction I quickly began to see between my perception of Bruce Springsteen and the man Bruce Springsteen really is, in his own words.
Yeah, I know it sounds like a no-brainer that you don’t really know what someone’s life is like until you’ve walked a mile in his or her shoes, but it’s refreshingly uncommon to encounter an autobiography that contains this much depth, honesty, and distinction from what his lyrics put forth.
Someday girl, I don’t know when
We’re gonna get to that place
Where we really wanna go
And we’ll walk in the sun
But till then tramps like us,
Baby we were born to run.
You hear words like this and you think they must have been written by a romantic, rather than someone who suffered from a deeply rooted toxic masculinity and admits to being emotionally cruel to the people who loved him most.
There’s a welcome amount of depth into Bruce Springsteen’s family background and the maturity of his mental health. The book almost reads like a long road trip, back and forth between New Jersey and California, through the neighborhoods of his childhood into the slightly uncomfortable heights of fame.
Of course, there are the funny quirks and rockstar moments that have their endearing places in this memoir: getting kicked out of Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm back to back, meeting Clarence Clemmons for the first time and achieving financial security after years of struggle.
When I used to think about his life, I imagined all the people he must have encountered who he’d later immortalize in his music, from Madam Marie to the Rat and the Barefoot Girl. I imagined motorcycle sprints and hot balmy nights in the glow of the Jersey Shore boardwalk. All these elements are pleasant, but they’re not the carefree fairytale I was convinced they must be. They’re intermixed with empty bank accounts, endless cycles of rejection for the E Street Band, parental disappointments, isolation and loneliness and a ravenous hunger for a life bigger than everyone else Bruce grew up knowing.
It’s poetic and beautiful in some ways, but my ultimate takeaway that life has never been a picnic for any human being who’s ever walked this earth. There’s always something.
Bruce Springsteen’s music has inspired countless works of fiction that I myself have attempted to write, and my lifetime goal is to someday complete one. When I do, I’ll always know that the seed for the idea wouldn’t have existed without The Boss.
Anyone who’s a fan will undoubtedly get more out of this book than someone who hasn’t heard his music, but it has my full endorsement.
And yes, this is one of my favorite songs ever.