Springsteen—In His Own Words

When he interviewed Bruce Springsteen in 1974, journalist/author Jeff Burger had a “strong sense that he was going to be big.” Springsteen, of course, surpassed most everyone’s wildest dreams, becoming one of rock n roll’s greatest stars.

As Springsteen’s success grew through the years, so too did his ability to articulate his feelings about the world around him in ways other than songwriting. This evolution is captured in “Springsteen on Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches, and Encounters” (Chicago Review Press), Burger’s enterprising compilation of Springsteen-related material.

Burger’s book is filled with early stories about Springsteen (all featuring quotes from the rising star) from such landmark publications as New Musical Express, Creem and New Jersey’s own Aquarian Weekly. There are newspaper stories, radio interviews (with Dave Herman, among others) and TV interviews (with Charlie Rose, Ted Koppel and Brian Williams). More recent material includes Springsteen speeches, such as his classic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and New Jersey Hall of Fame induction speeches and a campaign rally speech for presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004.

The book serves as testimony to Springsteen’s personal and intellectual growth from relatively unschooled, unsophisticated youth to articulate spokesman for serious causes and his own art. Early on, for example, he insisted on letting his songs speak for themselves. “I really don’t want to touch on the songs at all,” he told Burger in 1974, “because I’ll screw them up.” But over the years, he grew more eager to explain the intention and the influences behind his work.

“Yes, he changed a good deal in this regard—and in many others,” says Burger. “At the time I talked with him, in 1974, for example, he not only didn’t want to talk about the songs but also didn’t understand why people got married and didn’t want to play any place bigger than 3,000 seats. He also wasn’t particularly articulate, which is why most of the early pieces in the book are not in Q&A format. But he matured and evolved in many ways and wound up talking about the music—and marriage and therapy and raising kids and a lot more—candidly and well.”

Burger, resident of Ridgewood, has followed Springsteen’s career for 40 years. His favorite Springsteen moment: A fondly remembered show in Phoenix in 1981. “I arrived five minutes late for an 8 pm show and Springsteen was already halfway through the first song, having started exactly on time,” Burger recalls. “He took one brief intermission—about 10 minutes—and played till 1 in the morning. I got the feeling that he could have gone on even longer, but the audience was clearly exhausted.”

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