40 years later: Born to Run

Springsteen’s critics misread his appeal. Absent from their analysis was class. The young heroes in “Thunder Road” and “Born to Run” are in flight from a very specific condition. Marsh recounts an interview in which Bruce explained, “I know what it’s like not to be able to do what you want to do, because when I go home, that’s what I see. It’s not fun, it’s no joke. I see my sister and her husband. They’re living the lives of my parents in a certain kind of way. They got kids; they’re working hard. These are people, you can see something in their eyes … I asked my sister, ‘What do you do for fun?’ ‘I don’t have any fun,’ she says. She wasn’t kidding.”

It’s been 40 years since “Born to Run” first captivated the popular imagination. In many ways, we’re living in a comparatively prosperous decade: Downtown Freehold has been restored to its original splendor, and the Asbury Park boardwalk is lined with upscale bars and restaurants catering to an upwardly mobile crowd. Yet Americans still grapple with the same concerns that animated a young Bruce Springsteen. The place and condition of one’s birth continue to define the outer boundaries of possibility. All of which makes the music as meaningful as it ever was.

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