Bono Inducts Bruce Springsteen
into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame
He hasn't done the things most rock stars do. He got rich and famous, but
never embarrassed himself with all that success, did he? No drug busts, no
blood changes in Switzerland. Even more remarkable, no golfing! No bad hair
period, even in the '80s. No wearing of dresses in videos... No embarrassing
movie roles, no pet snakes, no monkeys. No exhibitions of his own paintings.
No public brawling or setting himself on fire...
Rock stars are supposed to make soap operas of their lives, aren't they? If
they don't kill themselves first. Well, you can't be a big legend and not be
dysfunctional. It's not allowed. You should at least have lost your looks.
Everyone else has. Have you seen him? It's like Madame Tussaud's back there.
Then there's Bruce Springsteen. Handsome mother with those brooding brown
eyes, eyes that could see through America. And a catastrophe of great songs,
if you were another songwriter. Bruce has played every bar in the U.S.A., and
every stadium. Credibility --- you couldn't have more, unless you were dead.
But Bruce Springsteen, you always knew, was not gonna die stupid. He didn't
buy the mythology that screwed so many people. Instead he created an
alternative mythology, one where ordinary lives became extraordinary and
Bruce Springsteen, you were familiar to us. But it's not an easy familarity,
is it? Even his band seems to stand taller when he walks in the room. It's
complex. He's America's writer, and critic. It's like in 'Badlands,' he's
Martin Sheen and Terrence Malick. To be so accessible and so private... But
then again, he is an Irish-Italian, with a Jewish-sounding name. What more do
you want? Add one big African sax player, and no one in this room is gonna
(mess around) with you!
In 1974, I was 14. Even I knew the '60s were over. It was the era of
soft-rock fusion. The Beatles was gone, Elvis was in Vegas. What was goin'
on? Nothin' was goin' on. Bruce Springsteen was comin' on, saving music from
the phonies, saving lyrics from the folkies, saving leather jackets from the
Fonz. (Sings) 'Now the greasers, they tramp the streets and get busted for
sleeping on the beaches all night, and them boys in their high heels, ah Sandy,
their skins are so white. Oh Sandy, love me tonight, and I promise I'll love
In Dublin, Ireland, I knew what he was talking about. Here was a dude who
carried himself like Brando, and Dylan, and *Elvis*. If John Steinbeck could
sing, if Van Morrison could ride a Harley-Davidson. ... It was something new,
too. He was the first whiff of Scorsese, the first hint of Pattie Smith, Elvis
Costello and the Clash. He was the end of long hair, brown rice and bell
bottoms. It was the end of the 20-minute drum solo. It was good night,
Haight-Ashbury; hello, Asbury Park.
America was staggering when Springsteen appeared. The president just resigned
in disgrace, the U.S. had lost its first war. There was going to be no more
oil in the ground. The days of cruising and big cars were supposed to be over.
But Bruce Springsteen's vision was bigger than a Honda, it was bigger than a
Subaru. Bruce made you believe that dreams were still out there, but after
loss and defeat, they had to be braver, not just bigger. He was singing 'Now
you're scared and you're thinking that maybe we ain't that young anymore,'
because it took guts to be romantic now. Knowing you could lose didn't mean
you still didn't take the ride. In fact, it made taking the ride all the more
Here was a new vision, and a new community. More than a community, because
every great rock group is kind of like starting a religion. And Bruce
surrounded himself with fellow believers. The E Street --- it wasn't just a
great rock group, or a street gang. It was a brotherhood. Zealots like Steve
Van Zandt, the bishop Clarence Clemons, the holy Roy Bittan, crusaders Danny
Federici, Max Weinberg, Garry Tallent and later Nils Lofgren. And Jon Landau,
Jon Landau, Jon Landau, Jon Landau, Jon Landau. What do you call a man who
makes his best friend his manager, his producer, his confessor? You call him
the Boss. And Springsteen didn't just marry a gorgeous red-headed woman from
the Jersey Shore. She could sing, she could write, and she could tell the Boss
For me and the rest of the U2-ers, it wasn't just the way he described the
world. It was the way he negotiated it. It was a map, a book of instructions
on how to be in the business but not of it. Generous is a word you could use
to describe the way he treated us. Decency is another. But these words can box
you in. I remember when Bruce was headlining Amnesty International's tour for
prisoners of conscience, I remember thinking 'Wow, if ever there was a prisoner
of conscience, it's Bruce Springsteen.' Intregrity can be a yoke, a pain...
when your songs are taking you to a part of town where people don't expect to
At some point I remember riding in an elevator with gentleman Bruce, where he
just stared straight ahead of himself, and completely ignored me. I was
crushed. Only when he walked into the doors as they were opening, did I
realize the impossible was happening. My god, Bruce Springsteen, the Buddha of
my youth, is plastered! Drunk as a skunk! ... I have to go back to the book
of instructions, scratch the bit out about how you held yourself in public. By
the way, that was a great relief.
Something was going on, though. As a fan I could see that my hero was
beginning to rebel against his own public image. Things got even more
interesting on 'Tunnel of Love,' when he started to deface it. A remarkable
bunch of tunes, where our leader starts having a go at himself, and the
hypocrisy of his own heart, before anyone else could. But the tabloids could
never break news on Bruce Springsteen. Because his fans ... he had already
told us everything in the songs. We knew he was spinning. We could feel him
free-falling. But it wasn't in chaos or entropy. It was in love.
We call him the Boss. Well that's a bunch of crap. He's not the boss. He
works *for* us. More than a boss, he's the owner, because more than anyone
else, Bruce Springsteen owns America's heart.