Bruce Springsteen Details Depression In Long-Awaited Memoir

By David Konow 09/12/16

The prolific rock star describes his depression as "a freight train bearing down, loaded with nitroglycerin and running quickly out of track."

Bruce Springsteen Details Depression In Long-Awaited Memoir

At 66, Bruce Springsteen is still The Boss. Even though his legendary status in rock 'n' roll is secure, he’s not resting on his laurels. He’s still writing new music and he’s a top concert draw, putting in a touring schedule people half his age couldn’t keep up with.

It’s easy to assume that with all of his success, Springsteen would feel on top of the world, but in his new autobiography, Born to Run, available September 27, Springsteen wrote about his struggles with depression, which has haunted him for much of his life, he recently told Vanity Fair.

Much of Springsteen's working class appeal came from his ability to understand and capture the human condition in his writing. He told Vanity Fair the feeling of struggle “never leaves you. I always picture it as a car. All your selves are in it. And a new self can get in, but the old selves can’t ever get out. The important thing is, who’s got their hands on the wheel at any given moment?”

He may as well have been talking about his own mental health battles, because even with all the acclaim, fortune and success, Springsteen said that depression “crushed” him.

Springsteen revealed that his father, Doug, came from a troubled family where mental illness was common. Springsteen’s father drank, and was a “bit of a Bukowski character” who could be alternately distant and abusive. Seeing his father struggle, Springsteen worried that he himself could suffer a similar fate. “You don’t know the illness’s parameters,” Springsteen said. “Can I get sick enough to where I become a lot more like my father than I thought I might?”

While Springsteen has been in therapy since the early '80s and used antidepressants, he admitted he went through some bad stretches when he hit his sixties. But through it all, he still produced his acclaimed 2012 album Wrecking Ball, in which he included a song about his mental struggles titled, simply, “This Depression.” 

In writing about his depression, Springsteen’s wife, Patti Scialfa, told Vanity Fair, “If I’m being honest, I’m not completely comfortable with that part of the book, but that’s OK. He approached the book the way he would approach writing a song, and a lot of times, you solve something that you’re trying to figure out through the process of writing … So in that regard, I think it’s great for him to write about depression. A lot of his work comes from him trying to overcome that part of himself.”

Springsteen also still loves to tour, which he calls the “trustiest form of self-medication.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.