Bruce Springsteen Talks Throat Surgery, Depression, New Music
Bruce Springsteen delved into his history with depression and troubled relationship with his father, a "nerve-wracking" throat surgery and new music in a sprawling interview with Vanity Fair.
The cover story comes as Springsteen prepares to release his autobiography, Born to Run, and the musician admitted that the book was an opportunity to "'go there' … to find the roots of my own troubles and issues — and the joyful things that have allowed me to put on the kind of shows that we put on."
The 66-year-old musician has been open about his struggles with depression, and in Born to Run he writes about a recent dark period that intermittently shrouded his life between ages 60 and 64. "One of the points I'm making in the book is that, whoever you've been and wherever you've been, it never leaves you," Springsteen said. "I always picture it as a car. All your selves are in it. And a new self can get in, but the old selves can't ever get out. The important thing is, who's got their hands on the wheel at any given moment?"
Similarly, Springsteen acknowledged the difficulties of living with clinical depression on its own, but also grappling with the fear that he might always suffer like his father, Doug Springsteen. Springsteen described his dad as "a bit of a Bukowski character," a high school dropout who drank, couldn't keep a steady job and often feuded with, or withdrew completely from, his son.
"You don't know the illness's parameters," Springsteen said of his family's history of mental illness. "Can I get sick enough to where I become a lot more like my father than I thought I might?"
While Born to Run covers a moment of near-reconciliation between Springsteen and his dad, the musician admitted he never heard a straight "I love you" from Doug. "The best you could get was 'Love you, Pops.' 'Eh, me, too.' Even after he had a stroke and he'd be crying, he'd still go, 'Me, too.' You'd hear his voice breaking up, but he couldn't get out the words."
Amidst his ongoing fight with mental illness — as well as his extraordinary commitment to touring and marathon live shows — Springsteen revealed that he underwent surgery three years ago to address a chronic numbness in his left side that was hindering his guitar playing. The problem was a damaged disk in his neck, and Springsteen had to get his throat cut open and vocal cords temporarily tied off to the side so that doctors could insert the replacement disks. He couldn't sing for three months after the procedure.
"A little nerve-racking," Springsteen said of the surgery. "But it's been very successful for me."
Despite the surgery, Springsteen said he had no plans to stop touring or making music, though he did acknowledge there's "a finite amount of time in which I'm going to continue to do what I'm doing." As for the immediate future, he's set to resume his River Tour this month, and he'll also play a handful of shows in support of Born to Run. Springsteen also said he hopes to release a new album in 2017. He noted the LP — which will be his first of all new material since 2012's Wrecking Ball — is finished, but was shelved so that he could focus on touring and writing.
"It's a solo record, more of a singer-songwriter kind of record," he said, comparing it to the Sixties collaborations of Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell. "Pop records with a lot of strings and instrumentation. So the record is somewhat in that vein."
Springsteen will publish Born to Run on September 27th. The book will be accompanied by an album, Chapter and Verse, that features 18 songs chosen by Springsteen that reflect the themes and sections of the book. The LP will feature five previously unreleased songs.