Fakes Like Us

Springsteen on Broadway – the Broadway hit just released on Netflix – is, as Kyle Smith describes it in National Review,

…a luminous performance, an unexpected new late-career peak. His persona may be fake but his artistry is sublime.

Let’s back up a moment and talk about that “fake persona” bit. It stems from the show’s big opening admission – in Bruce’s words:

“I made it all up,” he tells the audience in his new Netflix special Springsteen on Broadway. “Bruce Springsteen” the persona — all gritty working-class authenticity — is a creation. “I’ve never held an honest job in my entire life!” he says. “I’ve never done any hard labor. I’ve never worked 9 to 5. I’ve never worked five days a week. Until right now.”

To be fair, this surprises nobody who’s followed Bruuuuuce this past, um (counts quickly) 40 years or so – as Dave Marsh showed in his classic bio “Born to Run” back in the early ’80s, he pretty much eschewed everything but playing in bands and building a following.

News flash – to succeed at something, you gotta live it every day, as someone once said.

And that’s one of the lines about the whole evening that resonated with me the most – because there are times I feel like I “made it all up” too; I’ve never had any formal training for any of the careers I’ve had – or even for any of the things I do for fun. My UX career? Tech writing before it? Music? Blogging and talk radio (OK, I had some OJT when I was a kid, but beyond being a DJ, nothing)? I decided I was gonna do them, and started doing them. After 20 years as a UXer, I still feel like someone’s going to bust me as a fraud someday.

Anyway – it’s a great show, and I hope you get a chance to see it on Netflix.

(And for those whose response is “I won’t listen to Bruce, since he’s teh liberal” – well, yeah, but in his prime he was also America’s best *conservative* songwriter, which makes some peoples’ heads melt, but I’m right and they’re wrong)

7 thoughts on “Fakes Like Us

  1. I watched it. The Steinbeck-ian tonal quality of his works has been too melancholy for me over the last 40 years… That’s what I think is a fraud. I don’t enjoy his music.

    And still…. he is the best rock n roller there is or was, and an extremely bright man capable of profound insight. That certainly showed.

  2. I feel like I “made it all up” too; I’ve never had any formal training for any of the careers I’ve had – or even for any of the things I do for fun. My UX career? Tech writing before it? Music? Blogging and talk radio (OK, I had some OJT when I was a kid, but beyond being a DJ, nothing)?

    When did we get to the point where kids have to pay $120,000 to buy credentials to do things they can learn in a summer?

    Granted, to be a doctor or engineer takes years of learning and practice but most schooling is pure fluff with a tiny bit of skill training tossed in.

    Back in the 60’s, my brother was a software developer for CDC. He worked on their operating systems, yet had little formal training. He was a smart guy though, who crafted wooden sailboats and rebuilt old cars. He had the skill and will to do whatever he set out to do.

    His boss had no formal training either – but worked as a DJ for years. He explained why he was successful at managing high tech while so many engineers were not. “You have to be able to explain things to upper management,” he said.

  3. I wouldn’t have any interest. Way, way, way before I knew anything about the guy, I never much cared for his music anyway – OK, OK, I did/do like “Tenth Ave Freeze-Out”. But now that I know about him, I’d have even less interest.
    Greg, almost all of the best hardware engineers with whom I’ve ever worked started as techs “on the floor” from which they were promoted to functioning hardware designers. I’ve found this is less the case with software. I think it may be that software is a strongly related to language skills: a good software engineer is expressing himself in another language and that takes time and practice – or talent. It sounds like your brother has that in spades.

  4. I know this is utter blasphemy to you, but in my book in terms of “how pleasant is their music to my ear?”, Billy Joel > Bruce Springsteen. Never been a fan of Springsteen.

  5. Let’s face it. Many it not most musicians, actors, and creative types are left of center. A minority are obnoxious enough that I avoid them. Most try not to s### where they eat. Springsteen is one of those. I think he recognizes that the working class people he sings about don’t buy into the neo-socialist deal that passes for progressive thinking. They might even be Trumpers.

  6. Never really liked Springsteen, he just never seemed authentic, his music had no true authenticity, just scripted and and over-acted.
    The reason I really dislike his music is way off base. I grew up in Colorado and when a youngster the Colorado lottery had just begun. The first million dollar winner turned in his ticket but the state treasurer refused to hand over the money. The State Treasurer, Roy Romer, held the money until the legislature passed taxation authority on the winnings. That just seemed wrong to me, on many levels. Mr. Romer then went on to become governor, and the media fawned over him constantly. There were glowing stories about his down-to earth nature, how he loved to drive around Denver in his convertible listening to Bruce Springsteen and what a wonderful family values guy he was. The early days of media bias. One alternative news magazine broke a story of Gov. Romer having an affair with his deputy chief of staff and the mainstream media ignored it. After years of denials, someone catches Romer and the staffer making out in a car in Washington D.C. The two were kissing for 6 minutes and even the big papers had to cover the story. Romer holds a press conference, with his embarrassed and humiliated wife. He states he did have an affair, (but they never had sex…and yes, he was a close friend of Clinton) then turned to his wife and asked for a six minute kiss.
    I can’t listen to Springsteen, I just get angry. Just as I can’t listen to “Fanfare for the Common Man” after Clinton’s inauguration.

  7. He’s a writer, a poet, he writes about the world and people around him.

    He didn’t have to live every story in every song.

    I don’t know why this is such a big deal.

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