One of the things giving me inspiration lately has been “Bruce”, Peter Ames Carlin’s biography of Bruce Springsteen. Carlin draws from interviews with seemingly every personality from Bruce Springsteen’s life. Overall, it was just an enjoyable and fun read about an incredibly talented guy who overcame alot and who made some really awesome music. When it comes to Springsteen it’s easy to get lost in his image as a music icon. It’s an image he has embraced at best ambivalently. As it turns out, what I discovered is that Bruce “the person” is much more interesting than Bruce “the icon.”
Reading “Bruce”, Springsteen doesn’t always come out of it smelling like roses. He could be controlling, obsessive, moody and self-centered, and yet he seemed like a man who was genuinely himself. I was a little amazed to read how young Springsteen was something of an introvert. Watching him perform (and I’ve never seen him live), you would never see imagine him as being a loner or as a quiet young man. Maybe seeing Bruce as an introvert is not surprising if you consider his reflective lyrics.
When you see someone like Springsteen, it’s hard to imagine him as struggling young musician, playing small clubs. Growing up he didn’t have the support of his own father and he didn’t always have the best role models. Reading Carlin’s book you get the sense that Springsteen was near the end of his rope on more than a few different occasions. While Springsteen may have lacked many advantages and may have started as an introvert, through a ton of hard work and his art he was able to build bridges with people in his band, form lasting friendships and create some really memorable music. This is music that makes ordinary stiffs like me sing in their cars, walk in time and which makes me feel like I can do almost anything.
Carlin writes of Springsten’s creative process:
It wouldn’t be easy. In fact, it was the opposite of easy. “He needed to try as hard as he could, till he’s bleary eyed, delirious, and collapses in some way, emotionally or physically,” (Pianist and Keyboardist) Roy Bittan observes. “That level of creativity you can’t just consciously get. There’s something underneath you tap into. And when you do that, you’re coming from another place.
Maybe I should just leave it there, but reading about Springsteen I couldn’t help but think about lessons I could learn from his life. When I see how hard Bruce worked at his craft, I’m encouraged. He wasn’t just born this talented or charismatic. One of the funnier stories in Carlin’s book takes place after a Springsteen performance for executives at CBS. Underwhelmed by young Springsteen’s lack of stage presence, Clive Davis told him, “You might want to consider using the vastness of the stage, because you’re just standing there.”
When I see all the obstacles Springsteen overcame, I’m encouraged. Bruce really loved music, and he worked his butt off to make himself better. There’s a lesson here for me. Too often I try something and I simply give up when it gets too hard. Blogging is one of those things I’ve enjoyed, but which can also be incredibly frustrating. You work on something, you work on something, then you have a finished product, and it’s not what you expected, or if it is what you expected, it’s not received in the way you expected. That’s frustrating, but those are the frustrations Springsteen experienced, particularly after his first few albums. All of this made me think how I still have a lot of room for personal growth and I often give up way too easily.
One of the narratives in the Bruce biography was also how he swung back and forth between doing strictly solo material and working with his band. While some of his material was better performed solo, it seems that Bruce needed a band to be able to truly express himself. Springsteen needed the community of a band. He needed the interplay, exchange and improvisation that happened when he was part of a band.
Art, music and writing, are things which are often executed solo. Nobody is going to write that book for you. Nobody is going to paint that landscape or write that song for you. Yet in reading about Bruce, I see how even with his ample gifts, there was something he could not fully express on his own.
Sometimes you need friends and people to walk the road with you.
This leads to something that has been on my mind.
One of the ideas, I have bandied about for the past year or more, was the desire to engage in group writing projects with other likeminded artists. This is not about a bunch of people who think exactly alike getting together. Think of this as a band. It’s a group of diverse people who each bring a different perspective and gift to the table. Together they create something pretty awesome.
While I’d like to continue writing this blog Momentary Delight, I would also like to write a cooperative blog or maybe an online magazine with a group of people coming from different directions who are trying to authentically write about faith, life and stuff. I want to write a ton of posts where I gratuitously try to include as many Bruce Springsteen videos as possible (okay I’m being a little facetious there). Through this project I want to give hope to all of the screwed up and damaged people, in part because I see myself as a screwed up and damaged person. Through this blog, I want create a dialogue and conversation among people about the important things of life. It might mean disagreement, but even in the disagreement there will be grace.
Maybe you’re read this and you’re thinking, “What the heck is he talking about!!!”
Maybe you’re reading this and you’re thinking, “Sign me Up!” If this is the case, take the next step, write me, call me and let me know your thoughts. Let’s make it happen.