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

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Deputy Editor: i’s Review of the Year

Andrew Webster
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all