by Tom Swift

When I ask [Bruce] Springsteen about his childhood, he tells me, “There was the house — and then there was what was happening in the kitchen. And when you went into the kitchen, the force of what was going on there was intimidating. But you had to deal with it. So the kitchen became freighted with meaning and danger. It was a dark, quiet place. The air was thick. So thick. Like swimming through dark molasses. You had to make your way through and make your way out — without disturbing, or creating too much attention toward yourself.”

I tell him I find it interesting that he smashed that silence with rock ’n’ roll. A joyful noise.

“When I was a child, and into my teens, I felt like a very, very empty vessel. And it wasn’t until I began to fill it up with music that I began to feel my own personal power and my impact on my friends and the small world that I was in. I began to get some sense of myself. But it came out of a place of real emptiness.” He pauses. “I made music for that kitchen. Go to Nebraska and listen to it. But I also made music for my mother’s part of the house, which was quite joyful and bright.” He locks his eyes on me. “You have to put together a person from all the stuff that you’ve been handed.”

-Michael Hainey, “Beneath the Surface of Bruce Springsteen,” Esquire, November 27, 2018