Bruce Springsteen’s Blues: The Boss Reveals Battles With Severe Depression
Maybe Bruce Springsteen was much more affected by that "Wreck on the Highway" than we realized.
Opening up more than ever before, Springsteen reveals battles with depression throughout his life in a 16,000-word New Yorker profile hitting the stands this week. It turns out he wasn't just dancing in the dark; he was doing his fair share of brooding there, and even contemplating suicidal thoughts.
That isn't just an acquaintance exaggerating. Even Springsteen's wife, Patti Scialfa, opened up to writer David Remnick about her husband's bouts with the blues — and admitted she shared them. She says Bruce's dark side "didn't scare me" because "I suffered from depression myself, so I knew what that was about. Clinical depression—I knew what that was about," Scialfa reiterates. "I felt very akin to him."
Even the most joyful side of Springsteen's performances may have had a bleak undercurrent, according to the man himself. He says in the article that, at times, his nearly four-hour shows were driven by "pure fear and self-loathing and self-hatred." Remnick extrapolates: "He played that long not just to thrill the audience but also to burn himself out. Onstage, he held real life at bay."
There may have been a silver lining to Springsteen's depression, though. If you're wondering why he's one of the few major rock stars who's never had a hint of a drug problem, the answer may be here. Remnick says Springsteen told him that he was so afraid of succumbing to "the thread of mental instability that ran through his family... that fear, he says, is why he never did drugs."
But Springsteen had more than just the sins of the father, or Adam raising a Cain, to contend with. There was the fame and acclaim at ever-increasing odds with Springsteen's self of sense-worth and identity. On his bleakest album, 1982's "Nebraska," Springsteen wasn't just affecting a mood. He was living it; Marsh says it was then that Springsteen was most depressed, and, in a funk, drove from one end of the country to the other and then headed right back the other way. Remnick describes it as "a cloud of crisis" and "intervals of depression that were far more serious than the occasional guilt trip" about being a well-paid populist.