“It’s the rare pop musician who sticks around for ten years. To be around for 40 years and still be an electrifying performer, and not just through the mists of nostalgia, is quite an achievement.” That’s David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, in an insightful (and New Yorker-lengthy) profile of Bruce Springsteen he wrote himself in the July 30 issue.
Most New Yorker content is only available online to subscribers but for some charitable reason there is open access to this piece at the New Yorker website. If you’re interested in the creative process – its sources and endurance – or good old in-depth journalism, or, like Remnick, you’re a Springsteen fan, you’ll enjoy this profile.
Remnick was 14 years old when he first saw Springsteen perform in 1973 as the opening act for a concert in New York by the band Chicago. The future journalist and editor was knocked out by Springsteen. Since then he’s been to “60 or 70” of his concerts.
What most impresses Remnick is Springsteen’s 40-year longevity combined with an insistence on artistic renewal. Remnick writes, “Springsteen refuses to be a mercenary curator of his past. He continues to evolve as an artist, filling one spiral notebook after another with ideas, quotations, questions, clippings, and, ultimately, new songs.” This rejection of complacency extends to his recently released album, “Wrecking Ball.” In a New Yorker audio interview that accompanies the article Remnick says, “Most pop musicians – most creative artists – have a moment and that’s it, and either they disappear, or repeat themselves or fall into a kind of senescence.” (The audio covers several subjects; the Springsteen part begins 6:30 in.)
Springsteen is surprisingly unguarded in his discussions with Remnick. From their conversations Remnick locates much of Springsteen’s artistic impulse and drive in his hardscrabble New Jersey upbringing and a violent, emotionally distant father. Remnick cites T-Bone Burnett’s observation that “rock and roll is all about ‘Daaaaddy!’ It’s just fathers and sons, and you’re out there proving something to somebody in the most intense way possible. It’s, like, ‘Hey, I was worth a little more attention than I got! You blew that one, big guy!’”
Springsteen tells Remnick: “Look, you cannot underestimate the fine power of self-loathing [in the creative process]. You think, I don’t like anything I’m seeing, I don’t like anything I’m doing, but I need to change myself, I need to transform myself. I do not know a single artist who does not run on that fuel. If you are extremely pleased with yourself, nobody would be fucking doing it! Brando would not have acted. Dylan would not have written ‘Like a Rolling Stone’.”
Springsteen is now on tour with his new “Wrecking Ball” album. Seattle is not a stop but he is performing in Vancouver, B.C. Nov. 26 and Portland Nov. 28. I’m going to try to catch the Portland concert. Who knows, maybe I’ll see you there.