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Book Review: 'Born To Run,' Bruce Springsteen


It's a big day for Bruce Springsteen fans. The rock star has just released a memoir, one of the most anticipated of the year. It follows a compilation album featuring some Springsteen's earliest recordings and some victory lap concerts with his E Street Band.

Our critic Will Hermes went to his first Springsteen show in New York City in 1978. He has this review of the book which naturally is titled "Born To Run."


BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: How you doing out there tonight?


SPRINGSTEEN: That's good.

WILL HERMES, BYLINE: Bruce Springsteen is a master storyteller, and if you've ever seen him live, you know that his between-song banter can be as riveting as the songs.


SPRINGSTEEN: When I was growing up, me and my dad used to go at it all the time over almost anything.

HERMES: For this reason, I'm not surprised that the language of his memoir often sings and leaps off the page with alliteration and pulse, especially when he's rhapsodizing about rock 'n' roll, like the passage where he describes watching Elvis Presley on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

He writes, (reading) then in a moment of light blinding is a universe birthing a billion new suns, there was hope, sex, rhythm, excitement, possibility, a new way of seeing, of feeling, of thinking, of looking at your body, of combing your hair, of wearing your clothes, of moving and of living.

Now, I've read plenty of well-researched Springsteen biographies, but none have such a compelling voice or this much detail on his formative years in New Jersey, his Italian and Irish heritage and his early bands like The Castiles, whose recordings appear on the recent compilation CD "Chapter And Verse."


THE CASTILES: (Singing) Baby, I don't need your loving no more. Baby, I don't need your kisses no more. Baby, I don't need your tender touch. Baby, I...

HERMES: Springsteen's songs show remarkable empathy for their working-class characters. But what's truly remarkable here is the empathy he shows for that character Bruce Springsteen. The book's big reveal has been its frank discussion of the singer's battle with depression, including decades of therapy and struggles with medication.

As those of us who have gone through this know well, it's not easy stuff to talk about, for men especially. That one of the world's biggest rock stars writes about it so nakedly makes this memoir important. And that's one reason why this book isn't just for Springsteen's super fans.

There's also plenty of blue-collar folk wisdom and celebrity rubbernecking opportunities. One involves Frank Sinatra. One involves Mick Jagger, and I won't give them away, but suffice to say they portray Springsteen as a super fan himself, more evidence that he's one of the most relatable rock stars in history as well as one of the greatest.


SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) I was opened to pain and crossed by the rain, and I walked on a crooked crutch. Well, I strode all alone through a fallout zone and came out with my soul untouched. I hid in the clouded wrath of the crowd, but when they said sit down, I stood up - oh, growin' up.

SIEGEL: Bruce Springsteen's memoir is called "Born To Run," and his compilation album is "Chapter And Verse." Our critic is Will Hermes.


SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) I had a jukebox graduate for a first mate. She couldn't sail, but she sure could sing. I pushed B-52 and bombed them with the blues with my gear set stubborn on standing. We broke all the rules, and I strapped... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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