“Bruce [Springsteen] has played every bar in the USA, and every stadium. Credibility? You couldn't have more, unless you were dead. But Bruce Springsteen, you always knew, was not gonna die stupid. He didn't buy the mythology that screwed so many people. Instead, he created an alternate mythology—one where ordinary lives became extraordinary and heroic.”—U2 lead singer Bono, induction speech for Bruce Springsteen into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, March 15, 1999
It’s hard to believe that 15 years have passed since Bruce Springsteen entered the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. It’s even harder to believe, though, that The Boss’ acceptance speech—long, loose, vigorous and wild, like his first couple of albums—could be topped by the man introducing him. It takes an Irishman to come up with such a masterpiece of Joycean stream of consciousness—by turns hilarious, quietly melancholic, poetic, filled with hosannas to the beauty of women (Springsteen’s mom and wife) and the vision of one man, singing of “dreams [that] were still out there, but after loss and defeat. They had to be braver, not just bigger.”
Only Bono could understand that Springsteen, lean and hungry in post-Sixties America, was, like James Joyce in pre-independence Dublin, trying his strength “against the powers of the world.” That is because the vast geography of the human heart can be explored as much on the boardwalks of the Jersey Shore as on the streets of a history-haunted European capital.