Bruce Springsteen on depression: ‘You don’t know the illness’s parameters’

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I was looking forward to seeing Vanity Fair’s October cover story and praying that it wasn’t another Kennedy hagiography. Thankfully, VF decided to put Bruce Springsteen on their October cover! Springsteen has written a memoir, you see, and this is part of his promotion. The memoir is called Born to Run, which he cites as his favorite song that he’s ever written. I can’t call myself a Springsteen die-hard fan, but I like him and appreciate him and now I’ll be singing “Born to Run” all day. It’s a great song. The VF piece is long-winded, but I suspect it will be a must-read for the Springsteen fanatics – you can read the piece here. Some highlights:

The importance of “Born to Run”: “It’s still at the center of my work, that song. When it comes up every night, within the show, it’s monumental.” Springsteen has never tired of “Born to Run,” which he wrote at age 24 in a small rental cottage in West Long Branch, New Jersey. Expressly conceived as an important work, it took him six months to piece together all of its elements. “A good song gathers the years in. It’s why you can sing it with such conviction 40 years after it’s been written. A good song takes on more meaning as the years pass by.”

Getting buff in his 30s: Springsteen’s initial reply was that, first and foremost, he was trying to get healthy as his metabolism slowed, so he took to lifting weights, and “I had a body that just kind of popped in six months…But if you want to get into it deeper, my father was built big, so there was some element of ‘O.K., I’m 34. I’m a man now.’ I remember my father at that age. There was the idea of creating a man’s body to a certain degree. I suppose I was measuring that after my dad. And also, perhaps, in some way, trying to please him. I also found that I simply enjoyed the exercise. It was perfectly Sisyphean for my personality—lifting something heavy up and putting it down in the same spot for no particularly good reason. I’ve always felt a lot in common with Sisyphus. I’m always rolling that rock, man. One way or another, I’m always rolling that rock.”

Dealing with clinical depression over the years: “You don’t know the illness’s parameters. Can I get sick enough to where I become a lot more like my father than I thought I might? I was crushed between sixty and sixty-two, good for a year and out again from sixty-three to sixty-four. Not a good record.”

Whether he would get involved with politics this election cycle: Springsteen demurred, noting that an artist has only so many “bullets,” credibility-wise, to shoot. But, he said, “when the times have felt very drastic, I feel like, ‘Well, I gotta put my two cents in.’ So we’ll see what happens.”

[From Vanity Fair]

I’ve heard him speak about depression before, and in the interview (and the memoir), he sounds quite open about it. Like he’s making an effort to consciously destigmatize depression and to talk about how talk-therapy and medication have helped him, but he still struggles, sometimes for years at a time. I would imagine “staying buff” probably helps too – it gives him a concrete task, to stay fit. As for his politics – he actively supported Pres. Obama in 2008 and 2012, and he’s always spoken about his liberal/progressive politics. My guess is that he was probably a Bernie Sanders supporter (although he never publicly endorsed Sanders) and now he’s supporting Hillary Clinton, although Springsteen might not get involved this cycle, and that’s fine too.

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Photos courtesy of VF.

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40 Responses to “Bruce Springsteen on depression: ‘You don’t know the illness’s parameters’”

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  1. Nev says:

    Great cover!!!!!

  2. detritus says:

    Umm…. Springsteen is hot, yes?

    Or am I confused by the motorcycle? Because I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way before.

    • GingerCrunch says:

      Older, fit, successful guys? Umm…yeah! And the motorcycle does not hurt.

    • L says:

      I think he’s become hotter as he’s gotten older. I was never a huge fan, but then I had the opportunity to hear him play, just him and a guitar, at a charity event. I was floored. This man is incredibly deep and talented. And hats off to him for openly discussing depression.

    • byland says:

      Yes. Bruce equals yes. Always.

      And agreed with motorcycle = hot, too. The Mister has a bike and a good portion of our relationship is based on taking rides together with no discernible destination in mind.

    • susiecue says:

      Yes. Definitely hot.

    • Cynthia Fraase says:

      He is very hot! And the rear view is even better!

  3. aims says:

    Bruce has always been open about his progressive politics . He’s a classic and he gives his all when playing live. I’m so glad he’s talking about his struggles with depression . I think anyone who has dealt with depression knows when it starts showing it’s ugly head. The key is, that when you start to feel like you’re going into a dark place, to talk about it. It’s the hardest thing in the world to do, because all you want to do is be left alone. Anyone who suffers from mental health issues has my undying compassion .

    • Miss S says:

      Ye to all of it. It just made me cry. Asking for help when the first signs appear can avoid bigger, deeper complications that come with it. It’s just so hard:/

  4. Mia4S says:

    Really looking forward to reading this! It’s hard to pick a favourite Springsteen song, like the Beatles it changes from day to day and mood to mood. Born to Run is a great pick though!

    If I absolutely had to choose right now? No Surrender.

    • Snappyfish says:

      Definitely Kitty’s Back & New York Street Serenade(which is positively symphonic) off The Wild, The innocent & e street shuffle. I love his early work but respect the later works. Bruce is a good egg.

    • ennuiarethechampions says:

      Thunder Road for me!

    • Cynthia Fraase says:

      You are right. Whenever I hear another song, I change my mind. After seeing The River played in full this last tour, it’s Drive All Night. Such a sexy song. Watch on YouTube….

    • Sarah says:

      Of his upbeat songs, I love “Rosalita.” Of his soulful songs, I love, adore, cherish “Thunder Road.”
      “You ain’t a beauty, but, hey, you’re alright.”
      Sob.

  5. H says:

    I love this man so much, can’t wait for his biography.

    I could never pick a favorite Springsteen song. Maybe an album. Right now it’s Wrecking Ball. Last week it was The River.

  6. Jesme says:

    Oh damn he’s HOT !
    I was crushed when he got married …
    Awesome musician ….
    That’s why they call him The Boss !

  7. Christina says:

    I like him, and I LOVE that he and his wife have a normal living room. No decorator, from what I see in the pic. He lives like a normal person.

    • Trashaddict says:

      ITA this picture made me so happy. The house looks like real people live in it! He’s such a poet and kind of an old soul at heart, even when he was young. My favorite Springsteen song is Incident on 57th Street, even the mechanics of how they put that song together as a group effort by the band were great. I like that stage of his career when the music was intense and orchestral. Born to Run was one of the first (albums!) I ever owned and I wish I had the guitar on that cover.
      I would be depressed too, given that Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici are gone. We are getting older and they are missed. But the music will keep us going.

  8. greenmonster says:

    I love him for giving it all on every show. It feels like he is one of the very last that knows who made him who he is. So many other artists (old ones and new ones) go up on stage, play for 90 minutes and it is a routine. Bruce and the E-Street Band just seem to have fun and want to give back.
    And Born to Run is one of my all time favorites.

    • Cynthia Fraase says:

      He’s been playing a minimum of 3 hours 15 minutes to over 4 hours this tour. There is not another band out there that does this. That’s with no intermission. Even the encore is just a pause for introductions and then the show goes on. They never leave the stage. And he is as good, if not better than ever. Absolutely amazing. If you ever get the chance to see him live, take it!

    • cynic says:

      Yes, he and his band really give you your money’s worth. When I went to see them, they were on stage for almost 4 hours.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      I was never a huge fan, but then I saw him in concert. I’m not a religious person, but it was like going to church. He has such energy, and the crowd gives it right back. It is hard not to get swept up in it! He’s so talented and I love that he has stuck with his band for so many years, even though he is the “star”.

    • Trashaddict says:

      Late 70s. Dyche Stadium at Northwestern. A “cosy” venue by today’s standards. And yes, his band gave heart and soul for 3+ hours and did it for love of the game. And the band was TIGHT. Staying synchronized while playing so fast? They must have practiced and practiced and practiced.

  9. Velvet Elvis says:

    I freaking love that cover. I never realized that he suffered from depression. I have chronic depression and it’s such a debilitating disease…most people don’t realize the seriousness of it.

    • byland says:

      There is a long and storied history of mental illness in my family. I was hit with family history, horrible childhood, and a chronic illness that often causes depression so I really had no chance of avoiding it. I’ve been riddled with depression and anxiety my entire life pretty much, as I can remember being a preschooler and thinking about throwing myself off of high places.

      But the other side of my family has no history of depression or anything like it so one of my grandmothers once told me that she “just didn’t understand why people didn’t just choose to be happier.” She didn’t mean it in a mean way, but it just goes to show yet again that if an illness doesn’t cause symptoms that can be seen visibly then there is a good portion of the population that will dismiss it out of hand. Even the kindest of people, like my grandmother, have a hard time contemplating the seriousness of mental illness simply because they themselves lack a frame of reference for it.

    • Marianne Brandon says:

      I suffer from hereditary depression and an awful childhood – it has played havoc with my life. I have finally got to ‘reasonably content’ by switching to the anti-depressant Sertraline with Propranolol for anxiety. They have worked brilliantly for me and have given me a happiness I have never experienced before. Although different people react differently to medication, I would recommend anyone who has depression to try this combination.
      Love to all of you who share this vicious disease. xoxoxoxoxoxox

  10. JeanGenie says:

    album materpieces:
    - Darkness on the Edge of Town
    - The River
    - Nebraska
    - Born to Run
    - Ghost of Tom Joad
    - The Wild The Innocent and The E-Street shuffle
    - Tunnel of Love
    Love the man, the music and his commitment to social justice.

  11. Who ARE These People? says:

    Someone else can take the bike. I just want that living room.

  12. shoochai says:

    Sigh. I love this man so.

  13. gwen says:

    I just love this guy. I always have.

  14. Robin says:

    Saw him in concert over 30 years ago. He put on an amazing show. Born to Run and Badlands are my two favorites. What an outstanding performer.

  15. DSA says:

    That’s because there are no parameters, Sir…

    Also, is everyone also afraid of turning into their parents?

  16. Antigone says:

    Interesting! I didn’t know he suffered from depression. Looking forward to reading his memoir.

  17. wow says:

    Love him so much! And there is nothing like seeing him live. Nothing. I’ve been lucky enough to go to two of his shows. Bruuuuuuce!

  18. tekla says:

    I suffer from depression and psychosis. There are good days, but there are also dreadful ones. It doesn’t get better for long. Ever..

    • Trashaddict says:

      tekla hope you are OK that sounds sad. Hold on for the good days, try to remember how good you feel when they come.

  19. Riley says:

    Absolutely adore him. Saw him on the River Tour and he is all about his fans. A genuine one of a kind.