In 2016, just the day after Donald Trump’s unexpected victory over Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama welcomed Jann Wenner, the magazine’s founder, to the White House. Rolling Stone. It was a previously arranged interview that the president did not want to cancel. The journalist was more than shocked. Obama, by contrast, was relaxed, if not undaunted.
Two possible explanations. Obama had been at the top for eight years and knew of the difficulty of moving the political-legislative-executive machinery of Washington, although neither he nor anyone else were capable of imagining the tensions that his successor would apply. Another option: Barack was already thinking about the next leg of his career. Like all previous presidents, he would dedicate himself to making money. It sounds ugly, but it’s like this: Every former defends their political trajectory and vision of the future at extremely well-paid conferences.
Obama had something new up his sleeve: he was going to become an audiovisual content provider. In the company of his wife, Michelle, he founded the Higher Ground company, which produces documentaries, films, podcasts, series. Renegades. Born in the USA It was initially a podcast for Spotify, now transformed into a hardcover book, a product clearly focused on the Christmas gift market.
How does little more than six hours of talk turn into a volume of respectable dimensions? With the mixed bag method. Letters, tickets, posters, manuscripts, checklists are added. Billboard, professional and family photos, including long drafts of speeches written by Cody Keenan for the president’s use.
Even the title seems designed with the mentality of clickbait: The last description one would apply to Obama or Springsteen would be “renegade.” Gee, they are two patriots without apparent blemish. Both have published revealing autobiographies, with which the main hook lies precisely in their meeting. It is an uneven tournament: Barack is a master of rhetoric, something that – off stage – Bruce does not master. In fact, Springsteen seems intimidated and his partner He throws balls at him so that he tries to shoot at the goal.
It is true that Bruce is a good storyteller and here he shines by recounting some of his troubles. With empty pockets, he needs to travel from New Jersey to Manhattan and in the Lincoln Tunnel he discovers that he is exactly one penny short of paying the toll. It also shows resources when it comes to avoiding being recruited by the US Army, with a possible stop in Vietnam.
In Renegados. Born in the USA Vietnam is only spoken of to lament the hypothetical mistreatment received by veterans who returned from the war; the main victims of the conflict, the Vietnamese or the Cambodians, do not deserve a mention. It is about the blind spot of the two protagonists: the focus is on the United States and there is no interest in the rest of the world. Although the excuses are not lacking: Obama was born in Hawaii, an archipelago achieved during the imperial expansion of the United States in the 19th century.
At some point, Springsteen estimates that two-thirds of his followers live outside the United States. Given that his entire repertoire is devoted to genuinely American characters and situations, that should raise at least one reflection on the soft power, the heritage of Hollywood in the global imagination, the cultural hegemony of the country. Only Obama dares to suggest that the democracy of the United States is envied out there, “the only nation on Earth made up of people who have come from all over the world.” It is even moving in its simplicity.
They refine something else when dealing with the racial problem, here limited to African Americans (Latinos, now the main minority in the United States, are only mentioned in passing). A sin that Bruce naturally avoided: From the beginning, the E Street Band featured black musicians.
They look for parallels in their lives and there are not many: the politician grew up with an absent father, and the musician, with a distant one
The book oscillates between solemnity and collegiality. They look for parallels, and there aren’t many: Barack grew up with an absent father, and Bruce, with a distant one (now excused as a victim of undiagnosed schizophrenia). One studied and got to know exotic places; the other had such a small range of action that he only needed to learn to drive at the age of 24. Obama’s interest in politics came to him maternally, while Springsteen’s was slowly and surely fueled by his manager and mentor, Jon Landau.
Incidentally, one of Bruce’s first committed acts was his involvement in No Nukes, a concert against nuclear energy, which is now published in audio and video. Accustomed to the sober musician who now embodies the Social Conscience of the Democratic Party, it is astonishing to run into such a hurricane, a rampant Springsteen riding on the top version of a bar band.
The interesting thing is that that Springsteen still not massive but already triumphant was broken inside, to the point of resorting to an emergency psychoanalyst (on the advice, of course, of Jon Landau) during a stay in Los Angeles. The drowning, he explains, stemmed from the rewarding nomadic rock lifestyle and an unacknowledged need to put down roots and found a family that avoided the mistakes of his parents.
They feel lucky, they say, to have strong and understanding women. Regarding children, the sacrifices are less. Patti Scialfa convinces Bruce to abandon his nighttime rocker habits and commit to getting up early to make breakfast. Michelle decides to proclaim 6:30 p.m. as a sacred hour, reserved for family dinner, even though the world is about to explode.
‘Renegados. Born in the USA’. Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen. Penguin Random House, 2021. 316 páginas.
‘The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts’. Bruce Springsteen y The E Street Band. Sony Music, 2021.
You can follow BABELIA in Facebook Y Twitter, or sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.
Sign in to continue reading
Just by having an account you can read this article, it’s free
Thanks for reading EL PAÍS