Bruce Springsteen is the bard of lost American dreams.
Like much great art Bruce Springsteen’s finest songs transmute the particular into the eternal.
The more tightly local their focus—those boys from the casino dancing with their shirts open in ‘Sandy’ that Tilt-a-Whirl down on the south beach drag—the more universal they magically become.
As he puts it in ‘Born to Run’ his new autobiography he sings about ‘the joy and heartbreak of everyday life’ of humdrum defeat and defiance – the pull of home and the road’s allure – familiar dichotomies somehow elevated in his ballads into a new American mythology.
As ‘Born to Run’ recounts – those songs feel authentic because they are.
At the heart of his oeuvre and of his book is his painful relationship with his father- a sometime pool shark whom as a child Mr Springsteen fetched from bars in Freehold New Jersey for his long-suffering mother – and whom he once hit with a baseball bat to protect her.
He records their wars over his lengthening hair – which culminate in Springsteen senior calling in a barber when his son is incapacitated by a motorbike accident – the silences and boozing – but also his unexpected, curt relief when Bruce fails his army medical (‘That’s good’) and the old man’s crumpled awe when his son produces the Oscar he won for ‘Philadelphia’ (‘I’ll never tell anybody what to do ever again’).
Mr Springsteen explains how he tried to dodge his inheritance of self-destruction and depression – treating the latter with counselling – pills and the self-administered therapy of music.
‘I’m a repairman’ he says of his craft.