I saw this speech when it aired in 1999. Not once since. Woke up thinking about it today, hoping it would be as great as I remember (or really, hoping it wouldn't suck). Turns out it was even better. I've got my reservations about Bono, but his ability to turn a phrase here is pretty remarkable.
Sharing because it's great. And so I don't ever have to Google it again.
Yeah, man. Bruce is a very unusual rock star, isn't he, really? I mean, he hasn't done the things most rock stars do. He got rich and famous, but he 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, though there was those fingerless gloves in the '80s. No embarrassing movie roles, no pet snakes, no monkeys, no exhibitions of his own paintings, no public brawling or setting himself on fire on the weekends. 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. Do you see them? It's like Madam Toussant's back there. Then there's Bruce Springsteen. OK. Handsome! Handsome mother with those brooding blue 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 USA, 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 alternate mythology - one where ordinary lives became extraordinary and heroic. Bruce Springsteen feels familiar to us, but it's not an easy familiarity, 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 Terrance Malick. To be so accessible and so private: there's a rubric. 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 fuck with you. No, no. In 1974, I was 14. Even I knew the '60s were over. It was the year of soft rock and fusion; the Beatles were gone, Elvis was in Vegas. What was going on? Nothing was going on. Bruce Springsteen was coming on, saving music from the phonies, saving lyrics from the folkies, saving black leather jackets from the Fonz. "Oh the greasers, they tramp the streets, or get busted for sleeping on the beaches all night; and them boys in their high heels - Oh Sandy, their skins are so white. Oh Sandy, love me tonight, and I promise I'll love you forever." In Dublin, Ireland, I knew what he was talking about. Here was a dude who carried himself like Brando, Dylan, and Elvis. If John Steinbeck could sing; if Van Morrison could ride a Harley Davidson. But he was something new, too. He was the first whiff of Scorcese - the first hint of Patti Smith, Elvis Costello, and the Clash. He was the end of long hair, brown rice, and bell bottoms. He was the end of the 20-minute drum solo. It was goodnight, Haight-Ashbury, hello, Asbury Park. America was staggering when Springsteen appeared. The president had 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 Springsteen's vision was bigger than 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 important. Here was a new vision and a new community. More than a community, 'cause every great rock group is kind of like starting a religion, sort of. And Bruce surrounded himself with fellow believers. E-Street wasn't just a great rock group, or a street gang, it was a brotherhood. Zealots like Steve VanZandt, the bishop Clarence Clemons, the holy Roy Bittan, crusaders Danny Federici, Max Weinberg, Garry Tallent, and later Nils Lofgren, and John Landau, John Landau, John Landau, John 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 off. And that's Patty right there, I think. For me and the rest of the U2ers, 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 Public Conscience, I remember thinking, "Wow, if ever there was a prisoner of conscience, it's Bruce Springsteen." Integrity can be a yoke, a pain in the ass, when your songs are taking you into a part of town people don't expect to see you. At some point I remember riding an elevator with gentleman Bruce, where he just stared straight ahead of himself - 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! Pissed as a fart. I had to go back to the book of instructions and scratch the bit out about how you held yourself in public. By the way, that was, on a personal note, 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'd 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. They 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. I'm proud to introduce to you Bruce Springsteen, member of the E-Street Band. Come on!