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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A pack of seagulls squabble over discarded food left on the beach at St Ives on July 28, 2015  

Number of urban seagulls in Britain nearly quadruples: Hide food and avoid chicks to stay in gulls’ good books

Tom Bawden
 

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen