by Samantha Della Fera
For almost 50 years, Bruce Springsteen has captivated audiences with his honest lyrics carried by his signature husky voice. His story of a poor, blue-collar New Jersey kid turned international rock star may as well have been pulled right from a fairy tale. In his new best-selling memoir, Born to Run, which shares its name with Springsteen’s 1975 album, this fantasy world comes to life.
The rawness of the memoir is evident in just the first couple of lines: “I come from a boardwalk town where almost everything is tinged with a bit of fraud. So am I.” Springsteen then goes on to create a vivid image of his hometown of Freehold and the people he grew up with. As a half-Italian New Jerseyan myself, Springsteen’s stories of strong-willed Italian women and painful pinches on the cheek from aunts are all too familiar. The seemingly elusive star becomes someone you might see at your local grocery store, or at family dinner on Sunday.
This level of sincerity remains constant throughout the 508 pages. From admitting insecurities about his vocal technique (“About my voice. First of all, I don’t have much of one”) to detailing his tumultuous relationship with a neglectful father, Springsteen is astonishingly candid about every aspect of his life. For anyone who has gone to one of Springsteen’s earth-shattering, four-hour concerts, this is not out of character. In between power ballads and guitar-driven anthems, Springsteen always takes time to address the crowd, and to tell them the story behind the music.
Still, while the personal touch of Springsteen’s infamous stage speeches are evident in his words, the memoir is not at all contrived. The book has no ghostwriter—every facet from the sporadic capitalization to claims that the 1984 Republican Party would “[co-opt] a cow’s a** if it has the Stars and Stripes tattooed on it,” reeks of Springsteen. And truly, he doesn’t need anyone else’s help to write; Springsteen’s poetic skills are consistently evident in his lyrics, but his prose is just as impressive. When he recalls how it felt to write the song “Born to Run,” you feel like you’re in that room, aching to share your story with the rest of the world.
It is that level of closeness that makes Born to Run so thrilling for a Springsteen fan, and particularly for those in New Jersey. When you learn that Springsteen considers Freehold to be his “rosebud,” or that he misses being a teenager on the Jersey Shore, somehow his story and his success doesn’t feel so foreign. After almost 50 years of fame, traveling the world and making a name for himself, Springsteen still takes what he learned from years growing up in a working-class town in South Jersey, and uses it to craft a novel that will reach and impact millions of people.
“This, I presented as my long and noisy prayer,” he writes in the book’s final paragraph. “Hoping it would rock your very soul and then pass on, its spirit rendered, to be read, heard, sung and altered by you and your blood, that it might strengthen and help make sense of your story. Go tell it.”
photo courtesy of Simon and Schuster