An Open Letter to Bruce Springsteen
Born to Run
Not the song, not the album, but the book that you have recently published, just may be the most important thing that you have ever written.
This is quite a claim. There have been a lot of important things that you have written of throughout the years: The struggles of returning Vietnam Vets to Reagan-era America. The societal unease and mistreatment of homosexuals during the AIDS crisis in the 90’s. The trials and travails of the new waves of immigrants from Latin America on the Ghost of Tom Joad. With the song 41 Shots you took a bold and prescient look at the very real tensions that exist in America’s inner cities between it’s citizens and those we have chosen to protect us and uphold the law.
These things, among many others, were all great. Your career has been great. Your live performances have brought joy, hope, ecstasy, relief and communion to millions of people spread across all parts of our home: planet earth.
However, I venture to say, that none of these things hold as much weight, hold as much importance as the brutal candor with which you share your inner psychological life in Born to Run, the book.
The story that you share represents a unique type of lore for hundreds of thousands of people, particularly men, born between 1950 and 1960 in the Northeastern United States. Your generation were the children of Children of Immigrants, The children of Children of Depression Era Parents. Your generation was caught between the fears and vulnerabilites of their parents and grandparents and the oncoming tidal wave of cultural revolution that was the 1960’s and 1970’s. My father struggled with his father, much like you struggled with your father, to find that psychic space where an expression of masculinity included vulnerability amidst that crushing toughness which defined the generation of men preceding. This is the kind of masculinity that a reading of Born to Run, the book, so beautifully inscribes into the heart, and mind, and soul of the reader.
A Hero’s vulnerability is the reason that we are attracted to them. It is also the reason we find strength in their example. You may or may not be aware of this Bruce, but you are a hero to large number of people in this world. Particularly, you are a potent hero to a specific demographic: Male, age 50–70, with blue collar blood coursing through their veins. This individual would much rather crack a beer than “talk about his feelings”. It is these people Bruce, these men, the one’s who have never been able to open up and direct the focus of the lens inside of themselves that are affected most powerfully by your book, Born to Run.
Like the story of the man who yelled from his car window “we need you Bruce” while careening by you as the smoke from ground zero spread across the empty blue sky on 9/11, we need you now Bruce. And you showed up for us. Big Time. There are large numbers of people in the world today who are in pain, in fear, and just generally unhappy and unsatisfied. Your story shows us how a hero reaches deep inside of themself to touch the pain, feel the pain, learn from the pain, understand the pain and come out stronger on the other side.
And then like every good Hero, they go on and help others.