I recently posted a list of fifteen writers who have had an influence on my work. One of those writers was Bruce Springsteen. Does he write books? No, but he does write stories. He creates characters and places and moments in his songs that breathe just as well as Jack Torrance or Scout Finch. You’ve lived in his towns. You’ve felt the pain of losing someone close to you and the joy of doing the things you love. He writes about things that have influenced his day-to-day life as well as yours, and he does so effortlessly. Okay, he makes it seem that way, but I’m sure he fights for his words as hard as any of us writers do.
There are plenty of authors who mention the impact of his work in their own. Brian Keene is the big one that comes to mind (he does have a book called, Darkness on the Edge of Town). For me, it’s that magical ability to make you feel something. His stories are so heartfelt. And the fact that he usually shies away from simple nonsense lyrics, choosing instead to bust his ass conveying an emotion that won’t let him rest that makes all the difference. And you really have to be gifted to succeed at this time and time again.
His lyrics are beautiful, haunting, desperate, and celebratory. His characters feel real and his stories are our own. That’s the magic. His songs resonate. It’s how he started with his debut album in ’73 and is still going today. It’s why he is so beloved by his fans and why being in the crowd at a Springsteen show is like being at church on Sunday morning. His hymns are eternal, yet he takes to that stage night after night after night to earn our appreciation.
He could ride off into the sunset, retire and relax, but he won’t. His wheels are always rolling, those gears always shifting. There’s always something inside that needs to get out. And that’s how I feel as a writer. It’s why I hear a line a Springsteen song and think–there. Like Brian Keene, I was moved to write a book based on Bruce’s words. When he sings, my wheels start rolling:
“Tell her there’s a spot out ‘neath Abram’s Bridge
And tell her there’s a darkness on the edge of town
There’s a darkness on the edge of town
Well, everybody’s got a secret Sonny
Something that they just can’t face
Some folks spend their whole lives trying to keep it
They carry it with them every step that they take…”
I was trying to write a ghost story for a writing group and I had the album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, playing in my headphones. And it was like I heard those lyrics, truly, for the first time. What is this secret? What’s going on under Abram’s Bridge? What is this darkness? I compelled then and there to discover all of this for myself. I wound up writing my first published novella, Abram’s Bridge.
Like Bradbury or Matheson to King, Springsteen has provided me with my own desires and questions and what if’s and those moments of magic. I said in a comment on that post that his work bleeds into my own. The story above shows the direct line, and it is far from the only one. His catalog of songs is immense and still growing. For me, he is the Stephen King of songwriters. The body of work is incredible and inspirational. Whether through sadness and despair of songs like “The Promise” or “Lost in the Flood”, the storytelling of “Jungleland” or “The Ghost of Tom Joad”, or the youthful energy and excitement of “Born to Run” or “Badlands” or the controversial and poignant, “American Skin (41 Shots)”, Bruce Springsteen ignites the fire inside this writer’s heart and soul, and I praise him for it.
The rangers had a homecoming in Harlem late last night
And the Magic Rat drove his sleek machine over the Jersey state line
Barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain
The Rat pulls into town rolls up his pants, together they take a stab at romance and disappear down Flamingo Lane
Well the Maximum Lawman run down Flamingo chasing the Rat and the barefoot girl
And the kids ’round here look just like shadows, always quiet, holding hands
From the churches to the jails tonight all is silence in the world
As we take our stand down in Jungleland
Burce’s official biography comes out next month, September 27th. It’s called, Born to Run, and it is the first penned by “The Boss” himself.
Pre order your copy HERE