By John H. Foote
The autobiography of Bruce Springsteen was akin to sharing an open wound with the writer, his anguish and pain written on the page in blood, his life laid bare for the reader. Who knew the Boss was wracked with depression, sometimes unable to function? Who knew of debilitating
Springsteen is at home onstage with his guitar because he is completely himself and at home. This is what he was born to do. Watch him in concert, the energy, the purity of his work, the near giddy happiness of his soaring rock and roll. He is one with his music, and it with him, but so great, such
Springsteen is rock and roll incarnate.
He is the greatest poet in the history of rock and roll, his blue-collar background has been the basis for some of the most soul stroking ballads in rock history. Cars, girls, music, small towns, and family have been the basis for many of his songs, singing of a past many of us can relate too, but we have learned more recently he was exposing his own humanity and vulnerability through the years. Be it his connection to music, the tough relationship with his father, his intense political beliefs, his fearlessness in commenting on Reagan, W. Bush, and Trump, his songs about 9/11, Springsteen is so much more than a rock and roll singer, he crossed into being a music God a long time ago.
Poetry in American music began with Woody Guthrie, the torch passed to such singers as Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Don McLean, Jim Croce
“God have mercy on the man, who doubts what he’s sure of” he sings in Brilliant Disguise, while in Downbound Train he mourns, “I had a job, I had a girl, I had something going mister in this world, I got laid off at the lumberyard, our love went bad, times got hard….now I work down at the car wash, where all it is ever does is rain…”. In those beautiful pain-filled lyrics he captures the agonies of love gone wrong, something familiar to all.
Yet along with such intimate, soul stroking songs his tunes can be soaring anthems to youth, suggesting hope where there is none, suggesting triumph by belief on oneself. Listen to the scorched earth power in Born to Run, one of his earliest but still greatest songs.
My younger brother Steve introduced our entire small town to Springsteen in the seventies, around the time The Boss was the cover story on Newsweek and Time magazine as “the future of rock and roll.”
In the years since, his concerts became legendary, near four hour marathons, his songs explored the fabric and tapestry of modern America, though he could just as easily explore the past, and each is possessed on an honesty few singers have ever had, Bob Dylan, Jim Croce, and Joan Baez come to mind. Like
A few years ago I interviewed Springsteen for a documentary about the making of the album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, but it should have been Steve. Shaking his hand, tough with guitar calluses, looking into those shy yet wise eyes, I knew, as I did with Francis Coppola and Martin Scorsese, I was in the presence of greatness. Yet there was such casual humble decency to him, he was very easy to like.
The Broadway show is surprisingly simplistic, a factory-like
His lyrics are pure poetry, and there are so many great songs not on the stage show, some viewers might feel cheated, but they are not seeing a rock show, they are bearing witness to a rock God exposing a portion of his soul. How often in your lifetime will you see that?
I am absolutely positive my brother watched it at dawn, hope he enjoyed.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.