In his 2016 autobiography, “Born To Run”, Bruce Springsteen reveals the essence of his songwriting: “Most of my writing is emotionally autobiographical. I’ve learned you’ve got to pull up the things that mean something to you in order for them to mean anything to your audience. That’s where the proof is. That’s how they know you’re not kidding.”
As one of rock’s most prolific songwriters (clocking up in the region of 340 published songs), he’s covered a lot of bases, building a catalogue of albums that has seen him deliver stadium rockin’ anthems (‘Born In The USA’, ‘The Rising’) and then switch horses mid-stream and riding solo with noir, character-based long players (“Nebraska”, “The Ghost Of Tom Joad”).
Around the mid-70s, Bruce’s songs started to look at where he fitted in (or not). As he states in his autobiography, “My writing was focusing itself around identity issues – who am I, who are we, what and where is home, what constitutes manhood, adulthood, what are your freedoms and responsibilities. I was interested in what it meant to be an American, one small participant in current history at a time when the future seemed as hazy and shape-shifting as that thin line on the horizon.”
Much of the public’s perception of Bruce is wrapped up in his male persona, singing songs about girls and cars, a hyper masculine image. So, how do women relate to this? Part of the inspiration for this compilation came from me going to see the all-female Bruce tribute act the She Street Band at the Clapham Grand in 2019 and experiencing how these songs, which I had known all my life, took on another perspective when seen through the filter of a female protagonist.
What the tracks on this collection do is allow the singer to own the essence of the song and claim it as theirs. Anna Calvi is the driver of the car in ‘Fire’, it’s Moa Holmsten’s hand that slips up the woman’s skirt on ‘Highway 29’, and Emmylou Harris totally owns the dreamscape anxiety of ‘My Father’s House’.