How Bruce Springsteen learned what’s most important to the economy

While working on a writing project, I had to create a transcript of a 1998 interview that Charlie Rose had with Bruce Springsteen. This is an answer he gives in the 60 minute interview, about the central idea in his writing: work.

My music, because of what I wrote about, always had political implications. I suppose that came up originally out of my home life, my experience growing up, and my relationship with my father. And trying to understand the concept of work, and how work plays a central role in your life. I had two real, very different examples. My mother’s relation to work was very joyous. Very happy. It provided the entire family with stability. What she gained from it was an entire mode of behavior. You get up in the morning, at a certain time. You prepare yourself. You get yourself ready to go to a job. You walk down the street and you’re there at a particular time of the day. And you interact with your co-workers. And that’s a big part of your social life, your work life, and your place in the world. You’re doing something that has a purpose. There’s a reason you’re there besides just feeding your family. You’re a part of the social fabric. You’re what’s holding the world together. You’re what’s holding the town together, that’s holding your family together. I always remember that she walked with tremendous pride and strength, enormous strength, and it gave such great comfort, such great great comfort to a child. That makes sense. I understand that.

My dad had a different experience. Work was involved with pain. He lost his hearing when he worked in a plastics factory. Lost a lot of his hearing. He struggled to find work and go to work. The regulation of behavior that work provides wasn’t a big part of his life, and that was painful for everybody involved.

That’s essential. That’s central to the way that we live and think about ourselves, and who we are, and the place we live in. And so I saw both sides of it. I saw what happens when that’s not present there is pain, and there is anger. And deep, deep … it’s a destructive force. You wither away. You waste away. You don’t know where you’re going or who you are, and you take that out on the people that you care about. And that’s something you don’t want to do. But it happens.

So that’s what I wrote about. That was really really important. It’s the single thing that I’ve written about, my entire life, that fundamental idea. The importance of that idea in society. The cost of not providing that for … whether it’s for people to be able to take care of their families, to have productive jobs. The debasement of ourselves, in not having a society where that’s provided to all our citizens.

It all grew from there. It grew from my experience, and my trying to sort out my experience. I didn’t grow up in a political household. I didn’t have some particular ideology, or be a political person from where I came from, but I needed and wanted to write about those things because they were essential. A lot of my music has grown out of that place over the years.

Photo by Barack Obama and republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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