“I saw my rock and roll past flash before my eyes. I saw something else: I saw rock and roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” Jon Landau, May 9, 1974
“This guy seems to be pretty popular.” Floyd Smith (my dad), October 31, 1975, handing me the only album he ever bought me, “Born to Run.” It was his attempt to connect with his fifteen-year old son. He had seen Springsteen on the covers of TIME and NEWSWEEK magazine earlier that week.
Since the early 1970s Bruce Springsteen, both solo and with the E Street Band, has given his musical soul to his fans. I first saw him live on February 5, 1981 while he was promoting his album “The River.” All total I’ve seen him live five times. What’s amazing is that he played just as hard (and just as long) in 2008 (I missed the 2012 “Wrecking Ball” tour) as he did nearly three decades earlier. He loves his fans and his fans love him. “Springsteen and I” is a documentary about that love.
The film opens with the Boss and the band on stage. He’s working the crowd into a fever pitch, thanking them for the energy they provide. “We need you,” he tells them. And they need him. The next two hours is a collection of homemade videos submitted by fans describing their relationship with Springsteen. One woman tells about how she holds a photo of Springsteen up in front of her infant child and repeats, over and over, “Daddy.” Others tell of how his music has affected their lives. Some of the stories are incredibly personal. A young man whose girlfriend broke up with him the day of the concert bravely attends the show alone with a sign reading “Just got dumped. Can I get a hug?” Springsteen happily obliges. Another man recalls the time he went to a show dressed as Elvis and bearing a sign that asked “Can the King sing with the Boss?” A young woman tells the story of how she got Springsteen’s attention with an “I’ll be your Courtney Cox” sign and soon found herself dancing on stage to “Dancing in the Dark.” What makes these stories even more amazing is that director Baillie Walsh has been able to go into the Springsteen archives and find the footage of these events and many more.
Walsh, who helmed the fantastic Oasis documentary “Lord Don’t Slow Me Down” as well as the feature film “Flashbacks of a Fool,” has dug out some gems. From raw and grainy early 1970s video tape to the multi-camera in house feeds of today, he presents an outstanding look into the man and his music. The musical numbers are complimented by the fans that share their memories, both funny (“I lost my virginity to ‘Thunder Road,’” says one woman) and poignant (“He taught me to be a better man”). Many are asked to sum up Springsteen in three words. Among the ones given: Poet, passion, comfort, hope, desire. One fan defines him as a Working Class Hero. But the words most fans, myself included, want to pass on to Springsteen come straight from the heart: Thank you!