Bruce Almighty: Bruce Springsteen And Depression

 

Taken from  Esperanza  which is located   HERE.

I can’t claim to be a Bruce Springsteen fan from the very beginning (namely, Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ), but it’s a fact that when his breakthrough album, Born to Run, came out in 1975 it was one of the first records I ever bought for myself.

Springsteen was 25 at the time, a working-class guy from New Jersey singing about teenagers in souped-up cars trying to escape the mean streets. I was a demure 14-year-old, growing up in a gracious neighborhood in the bosom of a professional family. But somehow his songs spoke to me—or maybe spoke for me, voicing the eternal adolescent yearning to bust loose.

Along with his marathon concerts—at 63, The Boss still fills stadiums around the world—that ability to give voice to the human condition has always been Springsteen’s particular talent.

Now he’s speaking for a darker side of the human psyche: depression. When a recent New Yorker profile delved into Springsteen’s emotional demons and revealed that he’s been in therapy for 30 years, the news made headlines across the country.

What the stories didn’t cover, though, was what therapy has done for Springsteen: helped him work through crippling issues about his abusive father and create a stable marriage with Patti Scialfa, a singer in his E Street Band. Springsteen has never hidden his troubled relationship with his father. In the profile, the writer recalls hearing Springsteen tell a story at a concert in 1976 about getting into screaming fights with his father, who would come home drunk from his job as a jail guard and make his son sit with him in the dark.

Doug Springsteen could erupt into rage and violence, often with Bruce as a target, making the household a place “in which threats were shouted, telephones were ripped off the wall, and the police were summoned,” he writes. But he could also sink into immobilizing depressions, and it’s possible that he had bipolar disorder.

Bruce Springsteen now lives with his own family on a 180-acre farm in affluent Colts Neck, New Jersey, 10 miles and a world away from where he grew up. That was in a two-family house in a rundown neighborhood of Freehold. His mother, Adele, worked as a legal secretary and held the family together. His father shifted from job to job, never achieving the prosperity he felt he deserved. Springsteen was marked as deeply by his father’s disappointment as he was by the man’s behavior.

According to the New Yorker profile, Springsteen is still gripped by the pain of his early years. “My parents’ struggles, it’s the subject of my life,” he tells Remnick. “It’s the thing that eats at me and always will.… Those wounds stay with you, and you turn them into a language and a purpose.”

Growing up in an abusive home left Springsteen unable to sustain close relationships. In some ways, he learned to trust nothing but his music. He got serious about playing guitar at age 15, joined a band as lead singer while still in his teens, then headed for the music scene in nearby Asbury Park. He had the ambition, discipline (to the point of perfectionism) and talent to break free from Freehold, if not from its corrosive legacy.

You can hear it all in the songs on Born to Run, the album that put Springsteen on the best-seller charts, on the covers of Time and Newsweek—and on a trajectory that would find him driving aimlessly across the country, questioning his life and self-worth. Or driving past his old house at night, “sometimes three or four times a week,” Remnick reports. Springsteen started seeing a psychotherapist in 1982, who told him he was trying to go back and somehow make things right.

Music was another kind of therapy for Springsteen, on the page and the stage. He talks to Remnick about how his punishing performances, often lasting three hours or more, were a way to escape “pure fear and self-loathing and self-hatred. You are free of yourself for those hours; all the voices in your head are gone. Just gone. There’s no room for them.”

But Springsteen also passionately believes that the live shows are his way to spread a little hope, create a transcendent experience for the crowd, and strike out against “the futility and the existential loneliness” of existence. In the end, what fans like me take away from Springsteen’s music is not only the stark and sad portrayals, but also a sense of human warmth and connection.

 

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