How Bruce Springsteen was "born to run" towards rock stardom

Bruce Springsteen in his interview for “CBS Sunday Morning” 

CBS News

Bruce Springsteen’s “The River Tour” recently topped the list as the highest grossing tour of the year so far. It’s brought him to stadiums and arenas across the U.S. and Europe. But CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason caught up with the rock legend in the town where it all started. 

Bruce Springsteen’s musical aspirations took root in Freehold, New Jersey.

“I knew everybody and every house on this street,” Springsteen said.

His passion for music was apparent early. At just 15, he was in his first band.

“I wanted to be great, you know. That was all that mattered to me was, how good can I get?” Springsteen said. “And I was ready to sacrifice everything else to find out.”

Speaking at the recording studio in his New Jersey farm, Springsteen said there was a ruthlessness to his ambition.

“I really needed to express myself as a musician. It was so caught up with my identity, my sense of self-respect,” Springsteen said. “It was primal, and it was a very unforgiving force.”

“Unforgiving in what sense?” Mason asked.

“I was just going to run through whatever I had to run through, you know? And if you couldn’t keep up with me you were gone along the wayside,” Springsteen said.

“My voice was never going to win any prizes,” Springsteen writes in his new autobiography, “Born to Run” – published by Simon & Schuster, a division of CBS. “So that left the songs. The songs would be my fireworks.”

Springsteen had another underrated talent.

“I was an excellent band leader, a very rare skill. Not a lot of good band leaders. It’s a lost art,” Springsteen said.

Springsteen considers Prince and James Brown examples of  “the ultimate band leader.”

“The skill is the band has to be at your fingertips, so they – if you go like this…” Springsteen said, wiggling his finger tips, “…they move. You’ve got to know how to arrange an entire show, how to start way up here, where people think you can’t get any higher. And then take them way up there, where people can’t believe they have gone.”

On the tour he just wrapped up, Springsteen – who turns 67 this week – routinely played for four hours a night. But three years ago, he felt the mileage catching up with him.

“Every tour, my arm was weakening, weakening, weakening,” Springsteen said. “Finally, it got to a point where I realized towards the end of the night, it was just difficult to play.” 

It was caused by a damaged disc in his neck, so he underwent surgery.

“They basically – they cut your throat, they take your vocal chords, they tie ‘em off to one side. The guy gets in there with some titanium and some little tools and they build you some new discs, they seal you back up again,” Springsteen said. “It takes about three months before you can sing. That’s the nerve-wracking part, you know.”

More worrying for Springsteen was the attack of depression that hit him in his early sixties.  

“Do you see it coming? Do you feel it coming?” Mason asked.

“Not really. It sneaks up on you,” Springsteen said. “During the day I couldn’t find a comfortable place to sit or to stand or, I couldn’t find any place to be, you know? You just don’t like being, you know? It’s fraught with too much confusion and despair and you got a lot of bad thoughts. And it lasted for a long time. It would last for a year then it would slip away, then it would come back for a year and a half.”

Springsteen said therapy and antidepressants gave him his life back.

“It’s certainly not funny when it’s happening. But now, it’s like I’m talking about somebody else. It’s like I’m not even talking about myself,” Springsteen said.

Springsteen was still able to write music through his depression. He said he has a new album already completed and on the shelf. He describes it as having a ’60s-’70s California pop sound, and says it will be released sometime next year.

A previously unreleased track, “Baby I” – from his teenage band, “The Castles” – is also featured on “Chapter and Verse,” the audio accompaniment to his autobiography.