How Bruce Springsteen Discovered He Was Trying to Be His Dad
Bruce Springsteen discussed being so troubled by his childhood that he spent 30 years trying to be his own father.
In a Guardian excerpt from Renegades: Born in the USA, the book he co-wrote with former U.S. President Barack Obama, the pair talked about how they’d both had difficult relationships with their estranged dads, and how it had affected them as they made their own way in life.
“From when I was a young man, I lived with a man who suffered a loss of status and I saw it every single day,” Springsteen said. “It was all tied to lack of work, and I just watched the low self-esteem. … There was something in his illness or in who he was that involved a tremendous denying of his family ties. I always remember him complaining that if he hadn’t had a family he would’ve been able to take a certain job and go on the road. It was a missed opportunity. … So we felt guilt. And that was my entire picture of masculinity until I was way into my 30s, when I began to sort it out myself because I couldn’t establish and hold a relationship … I just couldn’t find a life with the information that he’d left me, and I was trying to over and over again.”
He added: “The thing that happens is: when we can’t get the love we want from the parent we want it from, how do you create the intimacy you need? I can’t get to him and I can’t have him. I’ll be him. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll be him … I’m way into my 30s before I even have any idea that that’s my method of operation. I’m on stage. I’m in workmen’s clothes. I’ve never worked a job in my life. My dad was a beefy, bulky guy. I’ve played freaking guitar my whole life, but I’ve got 20 or 30 extra pounds on me from hitting the gym. Where’d that come from? Why do I spend hours lifting up and putting down heavy things for no particular reason? My entire body of work, everything that I’ve cared about, everything that I’ve written about, draws from his life story.”
Springsteen said he’d been “lucky” to go into “hardcore analysis” at the age of 32, where he was able to identify the problems he faced. “I don’t have my children until I’m 40,” he continued, “so I’m eight years into looking into a lot of these things, because what I found out about that archetype was it was fucking destructive in my life. It drove away people I cared about. It kept me from knowing my true self. And I [realized]: ‘Well, if you wanna follow this road, go ahead. But you’re going to end up on your own, my friend. And if you want to invite some people into your life, you better learn how to do that.’”
Renegades: Born in the USA — inspired by the pair’s Renegades podcast series — will be published on Oct. 26.