‘Born to Run’ takes read­ers on riv­et­ing ride

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - LIVING - By Ki­ley Arm­strong

“Born to Run” (Si­mon & Schus­ter), by Bruce Spring­steen Bruce Spring­steen’s life is now of­fi­cially an open book. The au­to­bi­og­ra­phy “Born to Run” takes read­ers on a riv­et­ing ride through the ev­ery­man rock star’s deeply lived ex­is­tence.

Spring­steen, who scrawled his story in long­hand over seven years, be­gins with an exquisitely de­tailed child’seye view of his 1950s work­ing-class neigh­bor­hood. He weaves an Amer­i­can Land ta­pes­try pop­u­lated with his col­or­ful Ir­ish-Ital­ian fam­ily. Then come the mu­si­cal mus­ings:

Young Bruce, “on fire” af­ter see­ing Elvis on TV, quickly chafed at “stu­pen­dously bor­ing” mu­sic lessons. “I still can’t read mu­sic to this day.”

Once, in his early band, the Castiles , “we were be­ing spit on, lit­er­ally, way be­fore it was a punk badge of honor.”

Ma­ture Bruce worked to cap­i­tal­ize on his strengths while com­pen­sat­ing for imperfect vo­cal tone.

Among the bucket mo­ments: re­al­iz­ing a “teenage day­dream” while play­ing with Mick Jag­ger and Keith Richards.

Spring­steen’s Cal­i­for­nia phase yielded pic­ture-per­fect land­scape de­scrip­tions, though read­ers will spend more time hang­ing out in — no sur­prise — a dif­fer­ent state.

Gauzy, dream­like pho­tos in­side the cov­ers de­pict a van­ished era in As­bury Park, New Jersey, the hugely sym­bolic sea­side city of Spring­steen’s for­ma­tive mu­si­cal years. In one, a Fer­ris wheel stands proud be­hind the his­toric Palace Amuse­ments


Read­ers may need to buckle up for parts of this 508-page spin. He con­tem­plates some deeply per­sonal top­ics as a way of pro­vid­ing con­text for his art.

Spring­steen, 67 — who had an in­te­grated band back when that wasn’t al­ways pop­u­lar — re­veals what he wishes he’d said af­ter the beloved Big Man was sub­jected to a sick­en­ing racial slur. He also shares the heart-wrench­ing hospi­tal scene when Clarence Cle­mons drew his last breath.

Then he can­didly dis­cusses his own har­row­ing health bat­tles.

Af­ter scary surgery, he de­fied doctors’ or­ders and crowd-surfed in Australia.

Quit­ting his long­time an­tide­pres­sants prompted cry­ing jags: “‘Bambi’ tears . ... ‘Old Yeller’ tears. ‘Fried Green To­ma­toes’ tears ... ‘I can’t find my keys’” tears. He broke down at the beach and was

com­forted by “a kindly el­derly woman walk­ing her dog.”

“It would’ve been funny, ex­cept it wasn’t.”

His wife and new med­i­ca­tion pulled him out of the men­tal abyss that his fa­ther had also known all too well.

The salted wounds are soothed with sweet­ness: snap­shots of his Growin’ Up fam­ily, and the one he cre­ated with the mu­si­cian Patti Scialfa .

With Scialfa’s guid­ance, he learned to re­con­nect amid the mu­si­cian’s life: pad­ding into the kitchen overnight to get milk for their lit­tlest one, then tuck­ing him in with a story; learn­ing to make pan­cakes for their brood.

Over time, he re­al­ized that “a song will al­ways be there for me.”

But “your chil­dren,” he says, “are here and gone.” On­line: http://bruce­spring­steen. net/

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