Belfast Telegraph

The Boss

Editor's Viewpoint

WE may have much in common with our transatlantic cousins when it comes to politics and general tastes in life.

But, if there's one way you can tell us apart, it's in our choice of folk heroes.

For us, the role has taken on a mystical air, with icons such as Robin Hood, King Arthur, or Cu Chulain.

While debate rages about whether some of these may or may not have been real, they nonetheless serve as vessels into which we can pour our expectations and from which we can draw inspiration.

In America, though, the notion of a folk hero is different. Too young to have a history shrouded in myth, it is inevitable that the country turns to real people for its icons.

The music world has proven particularly fruitful to this end, with the likes of Woody Guthrie, or Bob Dylan, best encapsulating the idea of fighting against the odds.

But when it comes to all-inclusive, punch-the-air stories of sheer inspiration, there are few who can match Bruce Springsteen.

A new documentary film, Springsteen And I, released this month, tests that very conceit by asking ordinary punters to videotape their own feelings about The Boss.

One of the most striking aspects of the film is the diversity of responses the filmmakers received; from original fans of Springsteen's early days to a new generation of followers and everyone in between.

So what is it about The Boss that sparks such adoration and all-round passion in his fans?

One of the clues lies in that diversity of his fans, who range from middle-class housewives to blue collar guys; from old geezers to young hipsters.

While Springsteen has long been associated with the grit and grime of working-class America, there is much more than that to his musical canon – from the stark, country-tinged acoustics of his album Nebraska to his own heartache at his marriage break-up in Tunnel of Love, or the defiance and despair of post-9/11 opus The Rising.

Whatever it is The Boss is talking about, there is an undeniable sincerity to what he is singing and it is that to which fans respond most of all.

When you're buying a Springsteen album, you never get the feeling of buying something half-baked, or a commercial sell-out.

And, what's more, he can write a pretty mean tune, too.

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