Joined: 02 Mar 2009
|Posted: Sun 23 Jan - 11:54 (2011) Post subject: I'm just a regular multi millionaire
|I'm just a regular multi-millionaire
. Source: The Sunday Telegraph
HIS songs speak eloquently of the injustices of blue-collar America. Can Bruce Springsteen do the same in person? In a rare interview, Nick Rufford pinned him down on politics
" Most people don't want to be taking their political direction from guys that are shaking their ass in front of 60,000 people
Bruce Springsteen has got the shed that every man wants. There's storage space for his motorcycles, for junk and memorabilia. There's a music room with a mixing console and various guitars, and a den with that all-important beer fridge. Recently finished, it still smells of new wood.
It's a pretty big shed, but then Springsteen has a pretty big garden: at least 121ha of farmland, accessed via a track that takes you through electrically operated gates and past a security hut.
Springsteen's farm is close to Freehold, the New Jersey town he grew up in, but it could be in another state -- or country.
Away from the backstreets and closed-down mills, there's a restored farmhouse and outbuildings surrounded by woodland and pasture. Here, he rides horses and tinkers with his cars, including a 1960 Chevrolet Corvette, a '48 Ford Woody and a Range Rover for A to B trips.
At 61, he's enjoying the rewards of his 40-year rock career which has won him 20 Grammys, an Oscar and undreamt-of wealth.
I'm standing in the music room looking at some of the memorabilia, including pictures on the walls of Springsteen with Mick Jagger and Bono, and a cushion embroidered with the cover of Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ, his first album.
I don't have long to wait before he breezes in, wiry and weatherbeaten, wearing jeans, work boots and a checked shirt. He's walked across from the main house but he looks as though he could have parked his pick-up truck outside and come in for a beer after a day climbing telegraph poles.
He settled in this corner of Monmouth County because people are used to seeing him around and don't pester him.
"New Jersey is very protective," he says. "It's out of the general media spotlight you run into in big cities.
"I still like the ocean, the land around here and the smaller towns. I just go where I want to go and do what I want to do."
These days, interviews with Springsteen are rare.
When he does them, he generally prefers to do them in a hotel suite in Manhattan, where journalists get a timed slot.
One thing Springsteen doesn't need is publicity. He's sold 120 million records worldwide, half of them outside the US.
Four of the five studio albums he's made this last decade have topped the US charts.
In a recession-hit land, his hard-times music about shutdowns and lay-offs is arguably more relevant than ever.
If he never wrote or recorded again, he could carry on earning millions from royalties.
But on this occasion there's something on his mind.
He's easy-going, affable -- disarmingly so. Once we've got a little way through the interview, though, he leans forward and adopts a serious look.
"There's a widespread political consciousness that's perhaps deeper in Europe than it is in the States," he says.
"I've noticed that, generally, if I'm interviewed by writers from overseas there's a lot of interest [in politics]."
He's saying this in measured tones and there's a message building in his voice. It has to do with the US and the way certain things aren't working.
Springsteen nailed his political colours to the mast when he backed Barack Obama in the 2008 election. His song, The Rising, became a theme of the Democrats' Vote for Change rallies and was played over loudspeakers at Obama's victory celebration in Chicago.
"The climate [in the US] is very, very ugly for getting things done," he says.
"The moderate reforms President Obama fought to make are called Marxist, socialist.
"I mean, the most extreme language is put into play to describe the most modest reforms that would move the economy back towards serving a majority of its citizens.
"There's a tremendous distortion of information.
"The biggest problem we have now is almost 10 per cent unemployment, but we also have the disparity of wealth.
"You can't have an American civilisation with the kind of disparity of wealth we have. It will eat away at the country's heart and soul and spirit."
Conservative America, including some sections of the blue-collar bit that happen to be Springsteen's natural constituency, has joined up to obstruct Obama, and Springsteen's angry.
" You have a guy [Obama] who comes in, gets to be president for four years, maybe eight," the singer says.
"But you have the financial institutions, you have the military, the corporations. They're in play constantly and, in truth, they're shaping the economy and shaping the direction the US is moving in.
"Those forces are huge. The money and lobbyists are pouring in to do everything they can [to preserve the status quo].
"It's a very tough time, a very hard time here in the States."
The rich and powerful have made a grab for the US, he's telling me, and it's up to ordinary citizens to seize it back.
Undoubtedly, he is moved by the worsening plight of those at the bottom of the heap who have been hit hardest by the recession.
But isn't this a bit much coming from a man who, according to Forbes magazine, earned $70 million last year?
As well as the farm, there's his house in an oceanfront area of Rumson, New Jersey, across the river from Jon Bon Jovi, plus a retreat in a gated equestrian community in Florida.
Does his money make it difficult for him to write credibly about the poor and dispossessed? He looks at me squarely.
"Here's the only thing I know: I write very well about these things," he says. "And I think about them very seriously. I take a lot of time and effort in the music that I write to try and honour the experiences of the characters I write about. That's the best a writer can do."
If that sounds like a less-than-satisfactory answer, at least it's an honest one. And its only fair to point out that in the US, rich people who believe in political reform are not dismissed as champagne socialists, as often happens in some countries.
There's no doubt that Springsteen's sincere, too.
This is no longer the Springsteen of the sleeveless T-shirt and bandana, the one who delivered those sinew-straining, fist-in-the air renditions of Born In The USA in the '80s, looking like Robert De Niro from The Deer Hunter's combat scenes.
Then, he avoided party politics, fearing, says his biographer, that his own lack of political expertise would prove embarrassing.
When Ronald Reagan used Springsteen's name to rally Republican voters (Reagan misinterpreted Born In The USA as a piece of jingoism instead of what it was -- an indictment of the treatment of Vietnam veterans), he delivered a polite put-down to the president.
So what changed his mind?
"A moment comes when you cash in whatever credibility a guy can have who plays and sings rock songs for a living, and you put your chips where you think they might do some good," he says.
"Most people don't want to be taking their political direction from guys that are shaking their ass in front of 60,000 people. That's understandable.
"So I put my two cents in when I can, to be as helpful as I can, when the moment arises."
It's a decision he acknowledges has alienated some of his fans.
"Half the people you're gonna make mad," he says. "And that has to be OK with you.
"I got some nasty reactions. People sent me busted-up CDs
or got mad if they saw me sometimes. Some people may never come and see me again, but I would hope that that's only a small percentage."
Springsteen may, in the words of Jeremy Clarkson, have made more money than God, but he made it the American way.
In New Jersey in the 1950s and '60s, his parents struggled to support him and his two sisters. His upbringing was marred by rows with his father, who had a string of jobs as bus driver, prison guard and factory worker, but couldn't hold on to any of them.
There was no going out on Saturday night, Springsteen says.
At Freehold High School in the 1960s he was at very best a mediocre student and would probably have been voted least likely to succeed.
His enduring memory is of never fitting in. He fared no better when he progressed to Ocean County Community College, where a group of students voted for his expulsion on the grounds of his unacceptable weirdness.
Weird or not, by his early 20s he was making a name for himself playing gigs on college campuses and in bars on New Jersey's coast.
His Boss nickname came from his doling out the meagre earnings to his band.
"It's been the merry bane of my existence ever since," he scolds me when I ask [adding, "And no, my wife doesn't call me the Boss"].
Reconciliation with his father, Douglas, took a little longer. When he won an Oscar for his theme to Philadelphia in 1994, he took the award to show his father, who, moved by his son's success, said, "I'll never tell anybody what to do again," recalls Springsteen.
His father died in 1998.
Last year, Obama handed Springsteen one of the highest accolades for those in the performing arts, a Kennedy Centre Honour.
Summing up his admiration for him, Obama said: "I'm the president, but he's the Boss."
He's leaning back in his chair, smiling at the memory.
Turning his back on his east-coast roots, he dissolved the E Street Band in 1989 and moved to LA, starting a family with Patti Scialfa, now his wife.
For a time he recorded with session musicians or on his own, but the shows were never quite the same as with the old line-up.
After a decade in the Hollywood Hills, he uprooted and moved his new family back east, setting up home in New Jersey, close to his extended family, and reuniting with the E Street Band.
Installed back where he grew up, he was keen to connect with the community.
His charitable foundation helped pay for the FoodBank of New Jersey (which distributes food to the hungry) and for repairs for run-down housing in his neighbourhood. Dozens had leaky roofs fixed or heating installed without knowing who their benefactor was.
In the den, he's hunkered down into an easy chair. He's pausing to let the past catch up with the present, telling me that his daily routine, when he's not on tour, now revolves around his family.
"[Being] a musician is a shiftless lifestyle, one in which you've opted out of conventional rhythms and routines for the most part until family life forces you into them," he says.
"Previous to family life, which was very late for me, in my 40s, I lived upside down and ass backwards, you know. I'd be up all night, sleep all day, do whatever came next.
"A typical day now starts with the school run. That's the first thing I do. I make breakfast; Im sort of in charge of that part of the morning. Once that's successfully accomplished, and quite a challenge it can be, I may work out a bit or sometimes I'll swim in the ocean.
"In the afternoon, I may work on some songs, or whatever I'm doing. Over the years I've learnt to write quite well and quickly in stolen pieces of time. Then there's dinner at home."
Two of Springsteen's children Evan, 20, and Jessie, 18, are at university. Sam, 16, his youngest, is still at school -- a fee-paying establishment known for rigorous courses and a dress code that would have got Springsteen kicked out in his younger days. His two older children also attended the school.
Do they listen to Springsteen's music? "No," he says. "Why would they do that?
"For your kids, it's the least important thing about you. It's just your job and its actually invasive and intrusive on their lives, I find.
"They just need you to be Dad. They don't need you to be anything a whole lot more than that. Come in our house, and with the exception of some guitars around, you probably wouldn't know musicians live there."
Has he achieved greatness? He laughs loudly.
"Yes," he says, then checks himself. "I don't know. Perhaps." Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story is out now