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Bruce Springsteen reveals the movies that influenced his music

Bruce Springsteen has always maintained that his vision of music is deeply inter-connected with other forms of narrative traditions. One of those traditions which had a major impact on the life and the works of Springsteen is definitely cinema, leading the music icon on powerful artistic journeys towards existential truths.

While talking about the difference between songwriting and cinematic narratives, Springsteen explained how effective musical narratives have to be in order to convey the same amount of emotional potency within an incredibly short period of time. In an interview with the Washington Post, the legendary musician expanded on these observations and pointed out how the art forms operate differently.

“One of the differences between film and music is music is a very compact form,” Springsteen said. “In other words, ‘I will play you my movie in four minutes’. And you can do it because of the way that music bends time and allows you to compress things to get an enormous amount of experience – someone’s entire life – in three or four verses.”

Despite the differences, Springsteen drew a lot of artistic inspiration from various films belonging to vastly differing genres. Ranging from cult B-movies to bonafide American classics, Springsteen’s taste in cinema definitely classifies him as a cinephile and also an artist who opened his mind up to different visions.

On previous occasions, Springsteen had named film noirs such as the 1958 gem Thunder Road which inspired his eponymous song as well as masterpieces like John Ford’s adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath. According to Springsteen, Ford’s incorporation of humanism moved him so much that he tried to replicate it in his music.

However, the body of cinema that had the most profound impact on Springsteen’s mind was the New Hollywood movement which saw the rise of young and uncompromising auteurs such as Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. Springsteen did not hesitate to name Taxi Driver and The Godfather as two of his all-time favourites.

In order to explain how important those films were to the cultural zeitgeist, Springsteen commented: “Those were just pictures that came right at a certain moment when I was creating my own work and so there was something – the existential nature of a lot of them just rang true for me and it was something I tried to make a part of my own musical persona and what I was creating.”

When he watched Scorsese’s brilliant Mean Streets for the first time, Springsteen felt like he immediately connected and was particularly intrigued by the “dark intensity” of that film and others like it which inspired him to document the spirit of the times in his songs. Influenced by westerns and film noirs, Springsteen set out to create an oeuvre which would have a coherent quality like that of a filmmaker’s body of work.

Looking back, it is clear that he managed to do just that. Even after all these years, Springsteen continues to view his records as his own “little short films.”

Watch him discuss the cinematic masterpieces below.