The Gospel according to Bruce Springsteen

Italian journalist plots US singer's Christian journey through his music
The Gospel according to Bruce Springsteen

U.S. musician Bruce Springsteen performs with The E Street Band at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris in this July 11, 2016 file photo. (Photo by Bertrand Guay/AFP)

Claudio Zonta SJ, La Civiltà Cattolica
January 4, 2019
The existential, Christian journey of American singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen is traced through his complex and vast discography in a recent publication by Luca Miele, a journalist of the Italian daily newspaper Avvenire.

In five sweeping chapters — The Land of Dreams; In the Name of the Father; The Tunnel of Love; The Rising; In the Belly of the Whale — he shows how "The Boss" has tried throughout his artistic career to penetrate and understand the social and human reality of the United States, using existential concepts that echo some biblical themes.

Miele stresses that this is the start of a journey through his songs, highlighting evocations and suggestions that link up with Gospel culture, which are reread and reinterpreted by the famous American singer.

As a singer-songwriter, Bruce Springsteen's songs are like a coast-to-coast road trip with sporadic stops in lonely places where the earth is lashed by wind, where we meet his characters walking toward a dreamed-of destination, fleeing toward an undefined future ("Straight Time", "Highway 29") and traversing physical and existential frontiers ("Across the Border"). 

The protagonists of his songs embrace a condition of exit and exodus. This existential dimension recalls the exodus from Egypt by the people of Israel, who crossed the borders of Canaan and other neighboring places in search of a land where they could finally find peace.

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Journeying on, for Springsteen, possesses a symbolic value: it holds together the physical reality of fatigue and the uncertainty of a journey with an existential experience of escaping from oneself, of the search for a self that is too often elusive, or the quest for a "Beyond" that reflects a continuous tension between immanence and transcendence.

The musician's quest even dares to scramble into apparently tight corners. For example, in the song "Human Touch":

"Ain't no mercy on the streets of this town / Ain't no bread from heavenly skies / Ain't nobody drawin' wine from this blood."

To read this La Civiltà Cattolica article in full please click here.

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