I’m currently reading Peter Ames Carlin’s Bruce, the biography of The Boss he published last year. I’m just up to the spot where his first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. has been released. The portrait of Springsteen that’s emerging is fascinating, but I’ll refrain from much more comment until I’m done with the book.
One thing that’s being reinforced by the book, however, is what a charismatic figure Bruce Springsteen is. Virtually everyone in his life is willing to follow him through the gates of hell; everyone can see his potential. At least that’s how Carlin is making it seem. But he’s also not pulling too many punches. The Springsteen of his book is a troubled, flawed man. (It’s also pretty clear that he was a terrible romantic partner when he was younger.) There seems to be a conscious decision to show a more complete view of the kind of person Springsteen really is, although it’s obvious the emphasis is on his musical career.
That’s as it should be. I’ve felt for a long time that Bruce Springsteen is probably the iconic American musician. His vision of America–all its glories, and all its failures–is so intrinsically true. Whether there is factual truth to his songs doesn’t matter (although I’m already seeing just how autobiographical a lot of his music really is). Springsteen captures the spirit of what being an American is.
His early stuff is more imagistic and poetic, but there’s an indefinable quality to songs like “Blinded by the Light” that make it compelling. I’ll probably be singing Springsteen’s praises again this week, so be prepared for more Boss.