The promise

Bruce Springsteen and the religious sense

"you gotta prove it all night" [1] you gotta stand the test of time

The characters on Born to Run were less eccentric and less local than on Greetings and The Wild, the Innocent. They could have been anybody and everybody. When the screen door slams on "Thunder Road," you're not necessary on the Jersey Shore anymore. You could be anywhere in America. [2]
The characters on Born to Run ... [omissis] ... were the beginnings of the characters whose lives I would trace in my work for the next two decades. [3]
As a songwriter I always felt one of my jobs was to face the questions that evolve out of my music and search for the answers as best as I could. For me, the primary questions I'd be writing about for the rest of my work life first took form in the songs on Born to Run ("I want to know if love is real."). [4]
"Incident" particularly featured a theme I'd return to often in the future: the search for redemption. Over the next twenty years I'd work this one like only a good Catholic boy could. [5]
I liked the fact that country dealt with adult topics, and I wanted to write songs that would resonate down the road. [6]
I was searching for a tone somewhere between Born to Run's spiritual hopefulness and '70s cynicism. I wanted my new characters to feel weathered, older, but not beaten. The sense of daily struggle in each song greatly increased. The possibility of trascendence or any sort of personal redemption felt a lot harder to come by. This was the tone I wanted to sustain. I intentionally steered away from any hint of escapism and set my characters down in the middle of a community under siege. [7]
"Adam Raised a Cain" used biblical images to summon up the love and bitterness between a father and son. [8]
To make "Racing" and those big titles personal, I had to infuse the music with my own hopes and fears. If you don't do that, your characters ring hallow, and you're left with rethoric, words without meaning.
Most of my writing is emotionally autobiographical. You've got pull up the things that mean something to you in order for them to mean anything to your audience. That's how they know you're not kidding. [9]
You're always writing about yourself: not literally or specifically, but there's got to be some part of you in everything. No matter how you may choose a story or a set of characters that you may have had no experience with, the job is to connect and create understanding, to see yourself in them and have your audience do so too. You try to find that place where there's a fundamental human commonality around very basic issues of work, faith, hope, family, desperation, exuberation, joy. The song always fails unless you can find yourself in those characters in some fashion and so, like I say, I haven't written really literally about myself, maybe on some occasions, but it's a metaphor for your emotional experience. You're trying to capture a piece of the world as you see it - that's what the job is. [10]
You try to find that place where there's a fundamental human commonality around very basic issues of work, faith, hope, family, desperation, exuberation, joy. [11]
I always say I picked up the guitar because I wanted to speak to you. And the irony is that moment, when you have an audience, is when you are separated and isolated. [12]
Good songs work on many different levels; that's what makes them good, that's what makes them last. [13]
I think in my own life I had reached where it felt like I was teetering on this void. I felt a deep sense of isolation, and that led me to those characters and to those stories - people I remembered growing up, my father's side of the family, a certain way they spoke, a certain way they approached life, and that resonated through that music. Along with all of a sudden trying to figure out, "Well hey, what if you don't get back in?" I had a lot of sorting out to do around that time. When you get older, the price for not sorting through the issues that that make up your emotional life rises. The same answers and the tricks and the lies that you told yourself at 22 feel a little less comfortable at 26, 28. The older you get the more the price goes up. I was at a place where I could start to really feel that price: I just felt too disconnected, I just wasn't any good, right at the moment that record occurred. So that record had something to do with those things. There are things that make sense of life for people: their friends, the work they do, your community, your relationship with your partner. What if you lose those things, then what are you left with? The political aspect wasn't something that was recily on my mind at the time, it was more just people struggling with those particular kinds of emotional or psychological issues. [14]
You hear your voice from that particular period of time, and you try to think back to what you were thinking, and who you were, and you probably tell yourself that you're the same. In some essential way you are the same, but of course you're the same person at a very different place in your life. The kid that walked in that particular night hadn't begun to imagine a life with children, a wife, and responsibilities - I was trying to avoid responsibilities, that was why I became a musician. So I find myself coming to terms with those ideas that I ran from for a very long time. That's quite a change. As you get older you realise that where life's satisfactions and new freedoms reside is in making specific choices, choosing the way that your life is going to go. Those choices seem confining when you're young, because you want everything, you live in a fantasy of endless possibility. Then if you have some success there is enormous amount of reel possibility that is handed to you, a dangerous amount, and if you go too far down that particular road, you realise it isn't what it appears to be. You can mistake endless choice for freedom, particularly when everybody wants to say yes to you all the time. There's plenty of fun to be had, but if you don't sort that out it's a recipe for disaster. [15]
First of all, everybody has a memory - where do you remember, why do you remember, when you were 11 years old, and you were walking down a particular street on a certain day, there was a certain wind blowing through the trees, and the sound your feet mode on the stones as you came up the drive. Everyone has memories like that, that they carry with them for no explicable reason. And these things live within you. They are an essential part of who you are. It may be that something happened. Maybe nothing happened. But for some reason on that particular day you had some moment of experience that revealed to you what it meant to be alive. How important it is, what you can do with your life. And your life can be brought back to you by the sound of your feet on gravel at a certain moment. That's the writer's job. The writer collects and creates those moments from out of his own experience and the world that he sees around him. Then you use your imagination and put those things together, and you present that experience to your audience, who then experience their own inner vitality, their own centre, their own questions about their own life, and their moral life. Whatever you're writing about, there's a connection made. That's what you're paid for - somebody says, "Hey, I'm not alone. You can do it on stage at night - it can be done just through an explosion of energy at a particular moment in a particular way that makes somebody want to stand up, move themselves, go home and do whatever they feel they need to do. You're just trying to bring forth experience and get people in touch with all of those things in their world. That's the real job, the job that keeps you writing. That's what keeps you wanting to write that next song, because you can do that to people and because if I do it for you, I do it for me. [16]


[1] Cleveland, August 9th 1978

[2] Songs, pag.47

[3] Songs, pag.47

[4] Songs, pag.47

[5] Songs, pag.26

[6] Songs, pag.66

[7] Songs, pag.66-68

[8] Songs pag. 68

[9] Songs pag. 68

[10] Mojo, 1999

[11] Mojo, 1999

[12] Mojo, 1999

[13] Mojo, 1999

[14] Mojo, 1999

[15] Mojo, 1999

[16] Mojo, 1999

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