Bruce Springsteen reciting the “Our Father” at the end of his sold-out Broadway show (see it on Netflix) was one of the most amazing images of the year for me.
I was expecting the show to be a plethora of greatest hits. Instead, it was a deeply personal look at his life from the perspective of a legend, incredibly, now almost in his seventies.
What was his overarching theme during his show? There are two: his deep Catholic faith and his father. His need to know and talk to that broken-down lush, mentally depressed father, an “Irish drunk” as Springsteen calls him, though in a loving, not in an insulting way.
Doug Springsteen was a complicated man with long periods of depression when he would sit at the kitchen table and just stare ahead. His son could never reach him.
One anecdote Springsteen relays is his stage show, based heavily on his autobiography “Born to Run” is telling.
It involves his mother, the real breadwinner in the family, driving a very young Bruce Springsteen down to the Irish bar in their Freehold area of New Jersey.
“Go in and get your father,” was her command when they stopped opposite the pub.
Anyone around in that era would perfectly understand it; a kid could go into a pub looking for his father but never a wife. That broke every possible male rule in the working class towns.
Bruce would remember years later how gigantic the men at the bar appeared to him at age seven and there was his father at the corner of the bar three sheets to the wind.
The Broadway show is a paean to his long-gone father, to suddenly reach back through the decades and visit the broken soul of the man he called Dad.
Doug Springsteen was descended from the Gerritys, a family from Kildare, Ireland who fled the Famine to settle in Freehold, New Jersey. They could never have dreamed what lay in store for one of their successors.
Springsteen pokes fun at himself, saying how he wrote songs about the need to become a troubadour, marching the pathways of the world yet here he was, touching age 70, back living ten miles from where he came from.
What drew him back there? Hs remembrance of things past, the Catholic soul of the place, St Rose of Lima Parish.
“I grew up in the shadow of the steeple,” as he wrote in his biography. Springsteen writes: “My parents Adele and Douglas, my grandparents Fred and Alice, and my dog Saddle. We lived spitting distance from the Catholic church, the priest's rectory, the nuns' convent, the Saint Rose Of Lima Grammar School, all of it just a football's toss away across the field of wild grass.
“I literally grew up surrounded by God. Surrounded by God and all my relatives. We had cousins, aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, great grandmas, great grandpas, all of us were jammed in five little houses on two adjoining streets.
“And when the church bells rang, the whole clan would hustle up the street to stand witness to every wedding and every funeral that arrived like a state occasion.”
This was his formative experience, shaped his entire life. As he has stated in a 2012 interview, he explained that it was his Catholic upbringing rather than political ideology that most influenced his music. He noted in the interview that his faith had given him a "very active spiritual life," although he joked that this "made it very difficult sexually." He added: "Once a Catholic, always a Catholic."
As he nears the end of an incredible career, it is that Catholicism that frames him. “Our Father” was his creed and still is.
Have you watched Springsteen on Broadway? Let us know what you thought of it in the comments section, below.