It's hard to imagine, but Bruce Springsteen turned 58 last year. His breakout hit, "Born to Run," is 32 years old. While rock stars his age are content to tour with their greatest hits, Springsteen launched what may become his most controversial work ever as a songwriter.
Even now, Springsteen is an artist in progress, having moved from stories about girls and cars to populist ballads that echo the dust bowl days of Woody Guthrie. Springsteen has put all that together now in his first tour with the E Street Band in four years. As correspondent Scott Pelley first reported last fall, he has returned to full-throated rock and roll, and a message that's sharper than ever, damning the war in Iraq, and questioning whether America has lost its way at home.
Springsteen told 60 Minutes his concert is part circus, dance party, political rally, and big tent revival. "You're the shaman, you know? You're the storyteller. You're the magician. The idea is whatever the ticket price, we're supposed to be there to deliver something that can't be paid for. That's our job," Springsteen says.
"You have got to be, wild guess, worth somewhere north of 100 million dollars. Why are you still touring? You don't have to do this," Pelley remarks.
"What else would I do? You got any clues?" Springsteen asks. "Got any suggestions? I mean, am I going to garden? Why would you stop. I mean, you play the music and you know, grown men cry. And women dance. That's why you do it."
"It's good to be a rock star," Pelley says.
"I would say that yes it is," Springsteen says. "But the star thing I can live with. The music I can't live without. And that's how it lays out for me, you know. I got as big an ego and enjoy the attention. My son has a word, he calls it 'Attention Whore.'"
"But you have to be one of those or else why would you be up in front of thousands of people, you know, shaking your butt. But at the same time, when it comes down to it, it's the way it makes you feel. I do it because of the way it makes me feel when I do it. It gives me meaning, it gives me purpose," Springsteen explains.
"Some of the pieces in the new record are gonna be considered controversial. Give me a sense of what you think has to be said. Why are you still writing?" Pelley asks,
"It's how I find out who you are, and who I am, and then who we are. I'm interested in that. I'm interested in what it means to be an American," Springsteen says. "I'm interested in what it means to live in America. I'm interested in the kind of country that we live in and leave our kids. I'm interested in trying to define what that country is. I got the chutzpa or whatever you want to say to believe that if I write a really good about it, it's going to make a difference. It's going to matter to somebody."
To do that this time, he gathered up his nearly life-long friends in one of the most successful neighborhood bands ever, the E Street Band, named for the road where they used to rehearse. His wife of 16 years, Patti Scialfa, plays guitar. They have three teenagers back home.
Their reunions start where they first met, in Asbury Park, N.J. For a rock band, it's all very businesslike; rehearsal starts at 9 a.m.
There are more than 250 songs in the Springsteen repertoire. That's what makes rehearsals, like the one Pelley watched, so critical. Before each concert, maybe just an hour before, Springsteen writes by hand the list of songs, and their order. He changes it every night. But at least one song is always there, so familiar to the band that all he has to write on the list is "B-to-R," as in "Born to Run."
E Street keyboardist Roy Bittan and guitarist Steve van Zandt go back with Springsteen more than 30 years.
Do they hate playing "Born to Run" over and over again?
"It's funny you said that because I was watching something on TV. And it was Tony Bennett. And they asked Tony Bennett, 'Aren't you tired of singing I Left My Heart In San Francisco?' And his answer was, 'It gave me the keys to the world,'" Bittan says. "Well there it is, that's it."
"I figure if we do a few more tours I might actually learn it," van Zandt says, laughing. "So, you know. I mean, we live in hope, right?"