Douglas Springsteen inspired much of his son Bruce's rock music

New York Daily News, 1998-05-02, by: David Hinckley
Douglas Springsteen, who died last weekend in California, never sang a note. But his son, Bruce, made him the most famous civilian father in the history of rock 'n' roll. Promoter John Scher says he remembers talking with Bruce Springsteen one night in the early '70s, before Bruce was a star. ``He was saying, `I remember every night when I was a kid, my father'd come home from work and he'd be saying, `My f----n' boss this' and `My f----n' boss that.' And I'd say to myself, when I grow up, I'm gonna BE the f----n' boss.'''

Still, even though Bruce had sung and spoken about his father for 30 years, there was no public announcement when Douglas Springsteen died. He had suffered a stroke in the early '80s and reportedly was in poor health in recent years. Bruce has postponed an ``MTV Unplugged'' taping that reportedly had been scheduled for May 14.

Raising Bruce and his sister, Ginny, in working-class neighborhoods of Freehold, N.J., Douglas Springsteen held several jobs, including assembly line worker and bus driver. He and his wife, Adele, moved to California in the mid-'60s. Douglas Springsteen, by all accounts, was a headstrong and short-tempered man, and he clashed frequently with Bruce, who later wrote in the song ``Independence Day,'' ``I guess we were just too much of the same kind.''

Bruce's view of his father surfaced repeatedly in songs such as ``Adam Raised a Cain: ''Daddy worked his whole life for nothing but the pain, Now he walks these empty rooms looking for something to blame". On stage, Bruce told how his father would sit in the house at night with all the lights off, smoking and drinking in silence. Everything made him mad, from Bruce's hair and music to someone turning on a light. It was a classic scenario of parent-child showdown, and bedrock material for rock 'n' roll rebellion. These songs and stories helped make Bruce an icon to every kid who felt he or she didn't fit and had to somehow escape.

But around 1980, Bruce said, he began to see his father less with anger and more with sympathy, and several songs on his 1982 ``Nebraska'' album -- including ``Used Cars,'' ``Mansion on the Hill'' and ``My Father's House'' -- reflect Bruce publicly and privately beginning to reconcile with his father. He still wrote a verse for his 1985 hit ``Glory Days'' that was about Douglas' failed dreams, referring to ``glory days ... that he never had.'' But that verse was cut from the recorded version, and Bruce's 1987 song ``Walk Like a Man'' was a note of appreciation for all his father had taught him. By all accounts, their private relationship over the last decade was close.

Even after his son became famous, Douglas Springsteen stayed out of every spotlight. He wasn't photographed or interviewed. But in far more than a biological sense, he gave the world Bruce Springsteen.