Thursday, November 08, 2012
Americans May Never Get Weary of the Boss
Bruce Springsteen has been, almost from the start of his career some 40 years ago, among the most dignified and articulate musicians in American pop history, a worthy heir to Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams and Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan, with a bit of James Brown’s showmanship thrown in for axle grease.
So it was all the more shocking and funny when, in 1985, the cartoonist R. Crumb published a drawing of himself chasing a Springsteen fan with a club, shouting: “I hate Bruce Springsteen!! Shlockmeister!! Polluter of souls! Deceiver of the innocent! Pimp! Panderer! Sleazeball hustler!!”
The fan he’s pursuing speaks for the reader when he yelps: “Help! Police! He’s nuts!”
Mr. Crumb, who collects old-timey 78 r.p.m. jazz and blues recordings, isn’t a Springsteen kind of guy. Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor and ardent Springsteen admirer, could pop the skeletal cartoonist into his mouth like a kipper. But Mr. Crumb’s anti-Springsteen rant caught something in the air. In 1985 the Boss was at the height of his post-“Born in the U.S.A.” fame, and he was badly overexposed. Even Mr. Springsteen began to feel, he told a journalist, “Bruced out.”
Among the best things about “Bruce,” a new biography of Mr. Springsteen by Peter Ames Carlin, is his portrait of Mr. Springsteen at this career crossroads. He dissolved the E Street Band — he wouldn’t record an album with its members again for more than 15 years, until “The Rising” in 2002 — causing bruised feelings.