Op-Ed: Bruce Springsteen On WTF – By Bob Lefsetz


WTF Episode-773 Bruce Springsteen

He’s so screwed up!

But so are you.

This could be the rock and roll moment of the year, equivalent to Bob Dylan’s speech at MusiCares back in 2015. Because rock and roll is a spirit, based on alienation, wherein if you speak your truth you believe it will set you free.

But it didn’t work for Bruce Springsteen.

He’s internalized. And on guard. It takes him a while to warm up. And he doesn’t talk like you or me. It comes out slowly. But while you wait, you realize…

This guy is thinking about it.

Nobody in public life does that anymore. Everything’s for show, everything’s for the cameras, everything’s for social media. Come on, YOU DOCUMENT IT! Believing everyone cares about your image, that the more people who flock to you the happier you’ll be.

But it didn’t work for Bruce Springsteen.

He got bitten by the music bug. The only thing I’ve seen similar is the internet bug. Back in ’95. When suddenly the whole country had to sign up for AOL to play. There’d been music, but when the Beatles hit, when they were on Ed Sullivan, an entire generation took up musical instruments and tried to speak their truth and become famous. Most gave up. Some soldiered on. Especially those with no other options.

Bruce Springsteen had no other options.

So he battles a mentally ill father and then the whole family abandons him, moves to the west coast for a better life and Bruce soldiers on in no-man’s land, trying to make it. A&R guys were not coming to Asbury Park, it was the land of cover bands. But Bruce could feel himself getting better. And when he listened to the radio, he thought he was just as good.

But he was nowhere.

And, of course, we know that Bruce Springsteen got somewhere. But that is not the story being told in this podcast. First and foremost it’s a story of isolation and detachment, just trying to survive in a screwed-up family. Putting up defenses. Not trusting good things even if they happen, never mind love.

And then hitting the wall. Becoming famous and realizing it solved none of his other problems, it didn’t make a life. Being thirty five and wanting a family but not knowing how to acquire one.

Life happens to you. You don’t control it. Bruce philosophizes and it’s like he’s inside your brain, saying what you feel, but nobody else is saying this stuff. Nobody else will show any weakness. Nobody else will say they’ve got many more questions than answers. No one else will say that being a star works on stage, but the rest of your life??? That can be torture.

Used to be we pored over the interviews in “Rolling Stone” for wisdom. When musicians were big thinkers instead of brands. Now it’s endless hype.

And Bruce Springsteen has done his share of hype too. For albums and projects that may not have deserved it.

But this is different. He’s selling a book, but unlike television the interview is extended. Unlike television there are no ratings. It’s akin to radio, it’s personal. You’re never gonna get the chance to talk to Bruce Springsteen, you can tell he’s wary of speaking with Marc Maron, because if you haven’t been burned by the press you have no fame, but once he gets going he just can’t help himself, he’s got to lay it on the line.

That’s what he did. That’s what made him famous. That was the essence. That was why we were drawn to him. And his brethren. They were driven to make it because not only were there no other options, they had to prove their worth. And once someone is paying attention, their heart’s desire, they cannot hold back. Because it’s not money they’re looking for, not really fame, but understanding. They want to be known.

Bruce Springsteen is in his sixties. He’s seen a lot. He’s finally comfortable in his own skin. So he can speak about the journey, the dead ends, what it takes to become a man.

Like Marc Maron, I’m still working on it. But listening to Bruce gives me insight. How you’ve got to adjust to what happens. And know you’ll get through no matter what. How to learn how to say yes and learn how to say no. How to exert some control in a world with no control. You’re guarded to survive, but ultimately you die inside.

This is not a tech world-beater telling you how he had an insight and now lives the life of a billionaire. This is someone you put on a pedestal, who’s been on a journey you can only dream of, but is broken inside and has spent the last few decades of his life trying to put the pieces back together.

It’s a privilege to listen. Because you rarely get wisdom, just posture and bloviating. Everybody’s trying to get ahead, everybody’s polishing their image and selling. But once upon a time, you got up on stage and…

That’s what built Bruce Springsteen’s reputation. Sure, he was on the cover of “Time and “Newsweek,” “Born To Run” got airplay. And eventually he was the king of MTV with “Born In The U.S.A.” But what broke Bruce Springsteen was the performances. The albums came alive. The show was anything but rote. He delivered, not for you, but for himself. He needed to prove it all night, that he was good enough, that he deserved attention, that you should pay attention.

And he did.

But it did not make his life work.


You may be too young to get the lessons imparted. You may be too busy being born to contemplate dying. You may not want to look at yourself as you blindly march forward.

But if there’s a crack in your system, if you put your head on your pillow and can’t fall asleep because you’re overwhelmed, unsure what path to follow…

You’ll find this podcast a revelation. You’ll feel a kinship. You won’t get answers, but you’ll gain the ability to march forward, in your own way, and isn’t that all we’re looking for?