“A good song gathers the years in. It’s why you can sing it with such conviction 40 years after it’s been written. A good song takes on more meaning as the years pass by.”—Bruce Springsteen, on “Born to Run” and other chestnuts in his massive catalogue, quoted in David Kamp, “The Book of Bruce,” Vanity Fair, October 2016
The new memoir by Bruce Springsteen is called—surprise, surprise!—Born To Run. But what seems to have emerged as a true surprise is the news that The Boss suffers from depression.
This really shouldn’t have come as a shock—as far back as the early 1990s, after the breakup of his first marriage, he had disclosed that he’d been in therapy, and more recently New Yorker editor David Remnick and Springsteen biographer Peter Ames Carlin have already revealed that the legendary singer-songwriter sensed a darkness not only at the edge of town but within himself. But I guess many people find it hard to believe that a performer with so much energy and joie de vivre in concert could feel such letdowns offstage.
The megabursts of attention for Springsteen lately—not just for his books, but for concerts that are setting records for length even for him—have sparked a reaction in some quarters. In the most polarizing election of my lifetime, I suppose it’s inevitable that even Springsteen is coming in for criticism, especially after terming Donald Trump "a moron."
A few of my Facebook friends, primarily conservative, have taken him to task for a variety of real or imagined sins—for instance, the declining quality of his songs, past infidelity, and even the nature of his philanthropies. (One especially vociferous person, offering no real evidence--how could she?-- suggested that he had B.O.!)
I could offer an extended defense of The Boss, but I doubt that it would change the minds of these people or others like them. Bitterness and skepticism run deep in our time, even among those we have learned to regard for yours with affection.
No rock ‘n’ roller gets through life without wounding or being wounded in turn, any more than you or I do. In any case, the best defense of Springsteen does not come from Springsteen's interviews, his new book, or even his life. It comes, as he indicates above, from the songs. A good song, as he says, “gathers the years in,” reminding us of the first time we heard them and taking on unexpected meaning with time.
And so, “Born To Run” endures, the same way that “Yesterday,” “Gimme Shelter,” “Fire and Rain,” and “Landslide” do, issuing from the deepest wellsprings of the heart, reminding us that we are not alone in times of tumult and trouble.