Terence Blacker: Who needs happiness? Not the Boss

Springsteen says more about our problems than most blubbing celebrities

Share

At first glance, the news is enough to bring on a bout of depression. Bruce Springsteen, so rugged and manly, so reassuringly uncomplicated, has joined the ever-swelling ranks of celebrity depressives. Stephen Fry, Ruby Wax, Monty Don, Ben Stiller – and now The Boss: a BBC4 documentary exploring his secret, vulnerable side can only be a matter of time.

Springsteen, though, has never been a conventional celebrity, and there is more to these apparent confessions than the usual mock humility which is so often in evidence when the famous elect to share their pain. Talking to David Remnick, who has written a blockbusting 15,000-word profile in the latest New Yorker, Springsteen has revealed that he has been in therapy since 1982, having experienced throughout his adult life feelings of self-loathing and isolation, fears of mental instability and, above all, a sense of disconnection from his father, who died in 1998.

The songs he has written over the past few years – as spare as a Raymond Carver short story, as evocative as early Chuck Berry – are, it seems, directly connected to these psychological problems. His epic three-hour shows are not just a rock star giving his fans value for money; they are part of "a tremendous push towards self-obliteration".

In a week when the Office for National Statistics has published the Government's first wellbeing survey, Springsteen is making a worthwhile point. Happiness is not necessarily the nirvana that the self-help books claim. Often it is the need to resolve intimate and intractable issues from the past and present which drives us forward.

Being able to create and communicate helps, of course. The connection between a fractured psyche and performance is usually described from the sidelines by profile-writers or biographers, but Springsteen is characteristically clear-eyed about his own condition. All performers are driven by the same need to transform themselves in some way. "I do not know a single artist who does not run on that fuel. If you are extremely pleased with yourself, nobody would be doing it!"

Establishing the connection between inner restlessness and outer success, Springsteen is saying more about psychological problems than most of the blubbing celebrities who go public about their own fragility. Anxiety and dissatisfaction can feed upon themselves. Self-pity is corrosive. Trying to attain a government-approved level of wellbeing is pointless. Sometimes the best way to deal with demons is by looking ahead, and knowing that none of us have a right to happiness.

terblacker@aol.com

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A strong currency isn't everything  

A strong pound is a great tonic, but it's not an end in itself

Hamish McRae
Left in limbo: Refugee children in a processing centre in Brownsville, Texas  

Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Rupert Cornwell
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?