Born-to-Run Jersey boy Bruce Springsteen still performs vigorously, after more than 50 years in music. A few weeks ago he turned 71, and he remains trim and fit.
There’s a secret to Springsteen’s continual renewal and energy, the constant ability to write, to create, to evolve and to correct. Springsteen never used drugs, including marijuana. When we look for reasons why some artists survive, thrive and are universally respected, Springsteen, “The Boss,” shows the advantages of staying sober.
According to long-time friend from E Street band days, Steve Van Zandt, “He’s a living example of what happens when you never do drugs your whole life. I mean, I’m sure he’s taken a drink or two a few times in his life, but he was never a drinker either.”Springsteen also didn’t follow the expected routines of school. For him, life was never easy, not at home, not in school, nor in music. Success was won with slow and steady, lots of trial and error, band changes and rearrangements.
Springsteen’s non- conformity included not taking drugs and not drinking at the bars where his bands played. He bailed out band mates who were busted for marijuana and even joked about the drug. But in interviews and in his autobiography, Born to Run, he claims that he didn’t partake.
“I had the goods and nope, I didn’t fuck around, no drugs, no booze, girls………yeah but not if they got in the way of “the music.” Born to Run, p. 115
“I was living the life of an aspiring musician. A circumstantial bohemian — and as I’ve mentioned, I didn’t do any drugs or drink.” Born to Run, p. 117.
Sins of the father and family inheritance
The son of a bus driver, Springsteen gives voice to the working class. He speaks the language of Jersey, and liberal politics define his roots and struggles.
“Losing My Religion,” a chapter in his autobiography, refers to the time Bruce took his first drink of alcohol at age 22. He held off on drinking until age 22, a good idea considering that his father drank too much and had violent outrages. However, it’s not only people with alcoholism in the family who can suffer from addiction. Mental illness runs in his family, at least through his father’s side. But its also not only those with mentally ill relatives whose minds derail from drug use.
Springsteen admits to depression for which he takes medication. Yet, he forgives the sins of his father and lets pain fuel his writing, singing and expression. “The Boss” gives all of us an example how to pursue life with incredible passion. He also shows us that it’s possible to be endlessly creative and poetic without the drug use.
A creed to live by
“I’d seen people mentally ruined, gone and not coming back. I was barely holding on to myself as it was. I couldn’t imagine introducing unknown agents into my system. I needed control and those ever-elusive boundaries. I was afraid of myself, what I might do or what might happen to me. I’d already experienced enough personal chaos to not go in search of the unknown. Over all my years in bars an out-of-line drunk in my face was the only thing that could get me fighting mad. I’d seen my dad and that was enough. I wasn’t looking for outside stimulants to help me lose or find anything. Music was going to get me as high as I needed to go.”
How ironic if the state of New Jersey votes would vote to legalize pot this year, when the state’s most famous icon eschewed pot and all drugs. Springsteen probably won’t take stand on the ballot, but voters should take inspiration from his history.