When Springsteen Met Scorsese

by Patricia Danaher May 14, 2019
Bruce Springsteen and Martin Scorsese during FYSEE Netflix 2019

kevin winter/getty images

It wasn’t so much a clash of the titans, it was more like a tribute to them when Bruce Springsteen sat down with Martin Scorsese for a public conversation at Hollywood's Raleigh Studios, organized by Netflix.

The pre-Emmy event was held in support of the campaign for Springsteen’s one-man show “Springsteen on Broadway”. The two old East Coast friends, who first met in 1975 at The Roxy, paid warm tribute to the influence of each other’s work and the influence of their work on popular culture.

Springsteen’s Greetings from Asbury Park and Scorsese’s Mean Streets were both released in 1973. “All my work was informed by my years in Catholic school. All that redemption, damnation and all the Martin Scorsese films,” said Springsteen. “As I got older, I stopped fighting against it and now I draw on it and enjoy it. There’s no greater well to draw on than the myths of Catholicism. Everything is in there.”

For his part, Scorsese also talked about the influence of the Catholic Church on him and his work. “It’s never over,” said Scorsese. “It all comes down to trust, loyalty, betrayal, and faith.” He said his latest movie, The Irishman, starring long-time collaborator, Robert De Niro, is replete with these themes.

Both artists also spoke of the impact of Flannery O’Connor on their work. Springsteen said his album Nebraska was inspired by the author and her eternal theme of “the unknowability of God.” Springsteen said: ”Faith is about all the mysteries and all the answers you’ll never come up with. The darkness is always more interesting if you are an artist. I was always interested in the thing that wasn’t right. I always based my work on the dark side of things. When you create, it’s a kind of prayer.”

The conversation references several other great male American artists whose work has explored the darkness and existential ache in their work.

“I mean, Hank Williams? Elvis Presley? Bob Dylan? You keep asking about each of them “what is bothering that guy?!” joked Scorsese. “That’s what keeps us watching, I suppose!”

Paying tribute to Scorsese, Springsteen described his movie Raging Bull as “one long, violent prayer.”

Springsteen also revealed how his Broadway show came about. It was something of an unplanned accident. He was invited to the White House and went along planning to read from the memoir Born to Run. Instead, he rewrote it as a spoken word piece.

“When my memoir came out, President Obama invited me to come and play at the White House. I went and played for 90 minutes and that ended up becoming the Broadway Show. The alchemy just felt right. I was striving for my De Niro “two-hour face” to keep the audience interested in one old guy and a guitar.”

The packed event enjoyed a half hour screening of the Broadway show and the warmth, respect, and chemistry between these two titans. In the end, Springsteen treated the audience to a live, acoustic performance of two songs: Dancing in the Dark, which he dedicated to his 93-year-old mother who has Alzheimer’s disease which has silenced her ability to speak but not her love of dance. He closed the event with Land of Hope and Dreams and the hint that he might tour when his next album Western Stars is released on June 14.