The Boss began seeing a psychotherapist as a result of his childhood relationship with his father along with experiencing a mixed reaction to achieving fame and fortune.
Many of his songs discuss the difficulties of dealing with his father’s own depression, and fears he’d have to face similar demons – which turned out to be true.
Springsteen tells the New Yorker: “My issues weren’t as obvious as drugs. Mind were different. They were quieter – just as problematic, but quieter.”
He recounts the time he told his therapist how he’d regularly drive past the house he shared with his parents, remembering arguments and fights. Springsteen explains: “He said, ‘What you’re doing is that something bad happened, and you’re going back, thinking you can make it right again.’ I sat there and said, ‘That is what I’m doing.’ And he said, ‘Well, you can’t.’”
His friend and biographer Dave Marsh says: “He was feeling suicidal. The depression wasn’t shocking, per se. He was on a rocket ride from nothing to something. Now you’re getting your ass kissed day and night. You start to have some inner conflicts about your real self-worth.”
But along with help from his associates, the Boss found solace on stage. “With all artists, because of the undertow of history and self-loathing, there is a tremendous push toward self-obliteration that occurs onstage,” he says. “It’s both things: there’s a tremendous finding of the self, while also an abandonment of the self at the same time.
“You are free of yourself for those hours; all the voices in your head are gone. Just gone. There’s no room for them. There’s one voice, the voice you’re speaking in.”
That’s one of the reasons he still makes sure his concerts are “an extreme experience.” He reports: “For an adult, the world is constantly trying to clamp down on itself. Routine, responsibility, decay of institutions, corruption: this is all the world closing in.
“Music, when it’s really great, pries that shit back open and lets people back in, it lets light in, and air in, and energy in, and sends people home with that and sends me back to the hotel with it. People carry that with them sometimes for a very long period of time.”
Eventually he managed to make a kind of peace with his father before he died, even though there was never a proper discussion about the difficult times they’d lived through – so Springsteen said his piece through song lyrics.
He says: “I had to have a conversation with him, because I needed to have one. It ain’t the best way to go about it, but that was the only way I could, so I did; and eventually he did respond.
“He might not have liked the songs, but I think he liked that they existed. It meant that he mattered. He’d get asked, ‘What are your favourite songs?’ And he’d say, ‘The ones that are about me.’”