January 11, 2020

PRESS THE LEGEND:

Bruce Springsteen's "Rhinestone Cowboy": The Bard of Authenticity Salutes Cheesy Seventies Style (Kyle Smith, January 10th, 2020, The Imaginative Conservative)

Mr. Springsteen hardly every sings others' songs (it's the only cover in the movie). He doesn't sing this one with a smirk or a wink. Why did he choose this one to wrap up the movie? I think it's a sly confession. Glen Campbell and Bruce Springsteen are not so far apart as they appear.

One of these two men lived a reckless rock-and-roll life as though he expected never to see 40. The other was a relative Romney. As a British tabloid once put it, with delightful concision: "Glen Campbell's dark side: Cocaine binges, booze addiction, three failed marriages and eating squirrel to stay alive." Campbell had eight children with four women, one of whom he married when she was 15 (and pregnant by Campbell, who was 17). That's straight out of "The River." Campbell was more of a Springsteen character than Mr. Springsteen.

At the time of "Rhinestone Cowboy" Campbell was a cocaine fiend. He was freebasing, too. Sometimes he would snort the white stuff while he had the Bible open on his table. In the Eighties, his relationship with Tanya Tucker was chaos; during his affair with her he busted up his room at the Plaza Hotel in New York and did $1,200 worth of damage. Tucker said he hit her so hard he knocked out two of her front teeth. In 1981, after a dispute on an airplane, he told an Indonesian gentleman, "I'm going to call my friend Ronald Reagan and bomb Jakarta." Campbell became a born-again Christian and said he kicked the bad habits, but they kicked back. As late as 2003, he earned himself ten days in prison after being busted for drinking and driving in Phoenix. When asked his name, he said, "Glen Campbell, the Rhinestone Cowboy." He insisted he wasn't drunk but had merely been "over-served" via a Coke he did not know also contained rum. He tried to knee a cop in the thigh.

Campbell's songs (which he didn't write) were not about desperation and woe, but his life was. For Mr. Springsteen it was the reverse; the darkness in his songs is strictly make-believe. This would have been obvious to anyone paying attention, but should you doubt it, I refer you to Springsteen on Broadway, in which Mr. Springsteen admits he made it all up, using the following words: "I made it all up." He went to the movies and borrowed from features such as Thunder Road (1958) and Badlands (1973). In 1987, his album Tunnel of Love reflected frankly on his (brief, unwise) first marriage, to Julianne Phillips, and in his 1992 song "Better Days" he drops a reference to being "a rich man in a poor man's shirt," but for the most part what Mr. Springsteen has been doing his whole career is speak through fictional characters -- gangsters and losers and Tom Joad. He never raced cars. He was never a street punk. He never saw the inside of a factory. "Standing before you is a man who has become wildly and absurdly successful writing about something about which he has had absolutely no personal experience," he said in the Broadway show. How could it be otherwise? He's been a rich man since his early thirties. He lives on a 380-acre estate in New Jersey, when he isn't at his $60 million property in Benedict Canyon. His daughter is an equestrian. If Mr. Springsteen were being frank, "The River" would be about a Mississippi of money.

No one should feel cheated, though. Mr. Springsteen is a creative artist, and he spent most of his career carefully refining his greatest creation: "Bruce Springsteen."



Posted by at January 11, 2020 8:17 AM

  

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