“Writing about yourself is a funny business…But in a project like this, the writer has made one promise, to show the reader his mind. In these pages, I’ve tried to do this.” —Bruce Springsteen, from the pages of Born to Run
In 2009, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed at the Super Bowl’s halftime show. The experience was so exhilarating that Bruce decided to write about it. That’s how this extraordinary autobiography began.
Over the past seven years, Bruce Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life, bringing to these pages the same honesty, humor, and originality found in his songs.
He describes growing up Catholic in Freehold, New Jersey, amid the poetry, danger, and darkness that fueled his imagination, leading up to the moment he refers to as “The Big Bang”: seeing Elvis Presley’s debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. He vividly recounts his relentless drive to become a musician, his early days as a bar band king in Asbury Park, and the rise of the E Street Band. With disarming candor, he also tells for the first time the story of the personal struggles that inspired his best work, and shows us why the song “Born to Run” reveals more than we previously realized.
Born to Run will be revelatory for anyone who has ever enjoyed Bruce Springsteen, but this book is much more than a legendary rock star’s memoir. This is a book for workers and dreamers, parents and children, lovers and loners, artists, freaks, or anyone who has ever wanted to be baptized in the holy river of rock and roll.
Rarely has a performer told his own story with such force and sweep. Like many of his songs (“Thunder Road,” “Badlands,” “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “The River,” “Born in the U.S.A.,” “The Rising,” and “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” to name just a few), Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography is written with the lyricism of a singular songwriter and the wisdom of a man who has thought deeply about his experiences.
I come from a boardwalk town where almost everything is tinged with a bit of fraud. So am I. By twenty, no race-car-driving rebel, I was a guitar player on the streets of Asbury Park and already a member in good standing amongst those who “lie” in service of the truth . . . artists, with a small “a.” But I held four clean aces. I had youth, almost a decade of hard-core bar band experience, a good group of homegrown musicians who were attuned to my performance style and a story to tell. This book is both a continuation of that story and a search into its origins. I’ve taken as my parameters the events in my life I believe shaped that story and my performance work. One of the questions I’m asked over and over again by fans on the street is “How do you do it?” In the following pages I will try to shed a little light on how and, more important, why.
Rock ’n’ Roll Survival Kit
DNA, natural ability, study of craft, development of and devotion to an aesthetic philosophy, naked desire for . . . fame? . . . love? . . . admiration? . . . attention? . . . women? . . . sex? . . . and oh, yeah . . . a buck. Then . . . if you want to take it all the way out to the end of the night, a furious fire in the hole that just . . . don’t . . . quit ... burning. These are some of the elements that will come in handy should you come face-to-face with eighty thousand (or eighty) screaming rock ’n’ roll fans who are waiting for you to do your magic trick. Waiting for you to pull something out of your hat, out of thin air, out of this world, something that before the faithful were gathered here today was just a song-fueled rumor. I am here to provide proof of life to that ever elusive, never completely believable “us.” That is my magic trick. And like all good magic tricks, it begins with a setup. So . . .
Bruce Springsteen has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the New Jersey Hall of Fame. He is the recipient of twenty Grammy Awards, the Academy Award, and the Kennedy Center Honors. He lives in New Jersey with his family.
“An utterly unique, endlessly exhilarating, last-chance-power-drive of a memoir.” —Rolling Stone
“Frank and gripping.” —David Brooks, The Atlantic
“Bruce Springsteen's life is now officially an open book. Born to Run takes readers on a riveting ride through the everyman rock star’s deeply lived existence.” —Associated Press
“Intensely satisfying...Born to Run is, like his finest songs, closely observed from end to end. His story is intimate and personal, but he has an interest in other people and a gift for sizing them up..” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Springsteen can write—not just life-imprinting song lyrics but good, solid prose that travels all the way to the right margic...And like a fabled Springsteen concert—always notable for its deck-clearing thoroughness —Born to Run achieves the sensation that all the relevant questions have been answered by the time the lights are turned out. He delivers the story of Bruce—in digestibly short chapters—via an informally steadfast Jersey plainspeak that’s worked and deftly detailed and intimate with its readers—cleareyed enough to say what it means when it has hard stories to tell, yet supple enough to rise to occasions requiring eloquence—sometimes rather pleasingly subsiding into the syntax and rhythms of a Bruce Springsteen song." —Richard Ford, The New York Times Book Review.
“A virtuoso performance, the 508-page equivalent to one of Springsteen and the E Street Band's famous four-hour concerts: Nothing is left onstage, and diehard fans and first-timers alike depart for home sated and yet somehow already aching for more.” —NPR
"Kinetic...The ultimate rock star shares like he's got one last chance to make it real. It's like sitting next to Springsteen in the campfire light hearing his life story -- you'll be begging for another exhilarating refrain." —People (Book of the Week)
“Excellent...very funny....eminently readable and engaging. Springsteen was also born to write. He has an active, energetic style that is part Jack Kerouac and part Instagram post.” —Asbury Park
“Born to Run has a compelling narrative and an organized structure worthy of a Catholic schoolboy of the 1950s….Mr. Springsteen writes fluidly about subjects light, dark and darker. He’s funny and solemn, tender and insightful. In Born to Run, he risks his mythic stature, but he emerges as more substantial, more admirable. Now Mr. Springsteen isn’t merely a star. He is a man – a son, a husband, a father and a friend – willing to share what he’s learned.” —Wall Street Journal
“Richly rewarding….Bruce Springsteen proves that he has taken on life fully engaged both in living and examining it, and in doing so, he’s delivered a story as profoundly inspiring as his best music….It’s alternately brutally honest, philosophically deep, stabbingly funny and, perhaps most important, refreshingly humble.” —Los Angeles Times
"A master storyteller.... the language of his memoir often sings and leaps off the page with alliteration and pulse, especially when he's rhapsodizing about rock 'n' roll." —Will Hermes, NPR
“Both an entertaining account of Springsteen’s marathon race to the top and a reminder that the one thing you can’t run away from is yourself.” —Entertainment Weekly
"Bruce Springsteen is the bard of lost American dreams....The origin of poetry, thought William Wordsworth, was emotion recollected in tranquillity. That motto describes both the content of Mr Springsteen’s book and the appeal of his songs, many of which look back on youthful traumas from a mature perspective.” —The Economist
“Glorious…a philosophically rich ramble through a rock 'n roll life…. Reading his intimate look back on a remarkable yet troubled life, it’s safe to say that Bruce’s aesthetic wouldn’t be complete without this long-form Song of Springsteen. It’s the lyric he was born to write.” —USA Today (four stars out of four)
“Where Springsteen soars — both as musician and writer — is in his ability to bear witness, not only to his own inner life but to the lives of those left behind in the post-industrial wastelands of this nation. Springsteen made it out of Freehold, but he never turned away from the ‘grinding hypnotic power’ of the place and its people. Born to Run’ documents the unlikely rise of a rocker hellbent not on escape, but on reckoning with the moral failings of the world he was born into." —Boston Globe
"A masterpiece….Bruce Springsteen could have put out a collection of recipes in Esperanto, cribbed from Campbell soup cans, and it would still be an international bestseller. Typically, he went the distance. And the result is nothing short of magnificent….I wish I could buy everyone a copy….This isn't just a book for Bruce fans, but for anyone who loves rock 'n' roll, the Shore or the last 40 years of Jersey pop-culture history. It's as epic as his recent four-hour concerts. And just as satisfying.” —Jacqueline Cutler, NJ.com
"He must be conceded a magic with words: He can spin not only a yarn but often an extended analysis, too.... His disclosures here are rich, deep, and useful to help destigmatize mental illness." —Slate