I am soliciting abstracts by scholars from all disciplines, including scholar-fans and fan-scholars, to be considered for inclusion in an edited collection on Bruce Springsteen, which will eventually be submitted to Routledge’s Studies in Popular Music series. The editor of this series has expressed an interest in seeing a Springsteen collection proposal.
In the middle of Bruce Springsteen’s 2012 Wrecking Ball tour promotional interview with the Paris media, one reporter observed, “so many people these past couple years look to you for your interpretation of events… . Look at us: when we were waiting for you earlier, so many people care about what you think, and what you feel about what is happening in the world.”
For many around the globe, Springsteen has become a voice of the everyday citizen in a political and social climate where such voices are marginalized. He has received a Kennedy Center Honor and with Peter Seeger sang before millions after Barack Obama was elected President for the first time. He has actively located his work within the lineage of Woody Guthrie and Seeger, reinforcing the necessity of contemporary folk music. In his SXSW Keynote he also asserted the importance of early rock and roll on his work, exclaiming, “Listen up, youngsters: this is how successful theft is accomplished!” In other places, he has discussed the significant influence of film and short stories, often describing his records as cinematic and looking for sounds that would evoke certain images. A new community of musicians, such as Tom Morello, Mumford and Sons, the Hold Steady, and Arcade Fire, has looked to him as a guide. In his most recent albums, Springsteen remixes work in the public domain and covers lesser known artists whose work speaks in a voice similar to his own. He has become quite adept at composing songs that respond to immediate contemporary events, such as “American Skin (41 Shots)” and “How Can a Good Man Stand Such Times and Live.” As performers, Springsteen and the E Street Band are incomparable, with shows lasting over 3 hours without a break.
Despite his contemporary appeal, Springsteen also seems to be rooted in the traditional relationship between label and artist. His recent move to release live versions of his shows soon after the events, while seemingly progressive, reinforces artist- and label-centric publishing with the possibility of refocusing fans on official bootlegs rather than those they compose themselves. Yet, Springsteen doesn’t seem to mind—and rather enjoys—fans recording his concerts with their phones and uploading them to YouTube. He is genuinely appreciative of the efforts fans go through to see his shows and has fun with their sign requests. The decades-long conversation he has been having with his fans (and fans with other fans) has, like all conversations, been made more complex as a result of convergent media.