Jason Kane's Reviews > Born to Run

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
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it was amazing

Turns out Bruce Springsteen has been a pretty busy guy! I know it’s hard to believe. As I read this enormous 528-page oeuvre, I had to admit, “This guy does nothing half-assed.” We start at the beginning, and I dare to say, we don’t gloss over much. Springsteen is the moody, insightful, straight-forward narrator you’d expect. The Jersey-Strong balladeer, rock legend, and BOSS does nothing to turn off fans and does a lot to gain even more new ones. This book is intelligent, engaging, and fascinating.

Springsteen’s inspiration for writing this book was the Super Bowl XLIII half time show in 2009. The experience was so rich and unique, he felt an urge to write about it. And then, he realized his life has been pretty rich and unique, so why not keep writing. We are dropped into suburban streets of Freehold New Jersey, where Springsteen comes of age. Representative of the best, worst, most typical, and most atypical experiences middle class America has to offer, Springsteen waxes on about his parents, family, heritage, religion, and of course - music. By chapter 18, about a third of the way through the book, the Springsteen that fans are somewhat familiar with begins to emerge.
I won’t say that it couldn’t do with a little cutting here and there, but I will say that he has verbose style that is also highly engaging and affectionate. His style is introspective, but also as relatable and proletariat as his reputation. I LOVE how he picks apart how his lyrics work and how he arrived at the arrangements that blew people away. I thought Born to Run was an amazing album, but it turns out I NEVER understood what it really was about.

And then there’s the insider facts sprinkled about like how, “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” was Van Zandt’s only Born to Run appearance where he spontaneously arranged, badgered, and befuddled the jazz players of a prized NYC horn section. Or how that “and” was really important: AND the E-Street Band. He offers a beautiful epigraph for the band, a loving eulogy for Clarence, and a powerful epitaph for music and the main six guys who made up E-Street!

Bass - Gary Tallent
Organ - Danny Federici
Guitar – Little Steven Van Zandt
Drums – Max Weinberg
Piano – Roy Bittan
Sax – Clarence Clemmons

I also loved hearing about Bruce’s inspirations and hearing him explain how his sound and persona were influenced by certain acts that he grew up with.

I’ve heard Springsteen talk about some of his music before. For example, the freedom of Darkness on the Edge of Town or the misunderstanding of Born on the USA, but in the same way that a long form interview is better than a short excerpt, Springsteen’s ability to use this book to provide context to these stories and connect and reflect makes everything that much more fascinating.
And then, you also get little stories like when an excited Little Steven and, in solidarity, a Born in the USA - Bruce Springsteen are kicked out of the Magic Kingdom at Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm for wearing bandannas.

When Springsteen finally gets to the Super Bowl recount that inspired the book in total, we are already mired in his thoughts, experiences, and stories. It is crazy to think that if not for this 14 minute performance in 2009, the 400 pages that came before it may not have ever been written. That idea certainly adds to the weight of his recount his wild, crotch-sliding halftime show.
I know it may be unconventional, and for many readers, it may be distracting, but I can’t recommend enough that once you get to Book II and Springsteen starts really dissecting the albums, that you put on the albums in the background as you read. It really made the experience deeper reading about Born to Run while it plays quietly in the background, then listening to Darkness at the Edge of Town as Springsteen recalls “Badlands.” Next put on The River as Springsteen discusses his decision to do a double album, and blasting Born in the USA as he jettisons himself into the mainstream. I noticed Springsteen released a companion album to this book called Chapter and Verse. I wish I had known that before I started reading. It is a nice collection that certainly complements the book, especially with some of the early stuff from Steel Mill and The Castiles. Still, I like the idea of tying the albums as a whole to Springsteen’s progression. For example, when he discusses the construction of Tunnel of Love, “Brilliant Disguise” is not enough to represent these chapters, but that is the only track on the companion album from Tunnel of Love.

This book took me forever to read. I started it in December, and finally in February, I finished it. It was not so much a page-turner as I’d hoped it would be, but the chapters are short, which makes for easy reading. It is hard to give this one a rating because if you like the man, it’s practically required reading, but if you don’t it may not have the same appeal. I’d say it does have the potential to convert new fans (which is a challenge in itself), and there are insights about life, love, and fatherhood that are universally appealing. This is overall an easy book to recommend, and while the enjoyment factor will vary, no one will be disappointed.

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Reading Progress

December 6, 2016 – Started Reading
December 6, 2016 – Shelved
February 21, 2017 – Finished Reading

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