Despite his musical stature, when, in 2016, the world lost two of its finest musical maestros in the space of a few months in David Bowie and Prince, Bruce Springsteen was left distraught. Two artists whom he greatly admired were suddenly gone, and the void they left behind will never be filled in the same way again.
Springsteen had worked alongside David Bowie before with the Starman providing a few notable covers of The Boss along the way. But it’s clear that the singer held a special place in his heart for Prince Rogers Nelson.
Nicknamed His Royal Badness, to merely peruse the enigma of Prince is to witness a caricature of rock and roll revelry. A man who refused to stand still, refused to conform and refused to hide. Prince was an artist whose uniqueness could sometimes come across as almost, well, a bit silly. However, when you scratch away Prince’s perceivable shiny surface, there were simply mountains and mountains of musical knowledge and innovation. It was this lesson that Springsteen learned from Prince.
Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2016, Springsteen opened up about the loss of Bowie and Prince, reflecting most sincerely on The Purple One’s magnificent education in pop music. “It was a terrible shame,” begins Springsteen when asked about their deaths and the tributes he had been paying to them during his recent run of live shows.
“It was a great loss and a tragedy,” he continued, “I felt a great kinship with Prince. And he was a guy, when I’d go to see him, I’d say, ‘Oh, man, OK, back to the drawing board.'” Considering just what a fantastic performer Springsteen is, shows just how highly The Boss regarded Prince.
As well as showing Springsteen that there was never a moment under the spotlight that wasn’t worth taking advantage of, he also showed that a firm education in the world of music was essential for a long and illustrious career. “There was a film of him on the Arsenio Hall show, where he plays a series of songs in a row. It’s just some of the greatest showmanship I’ve ever seen.
“And he knew everything,” Springsteen effused to Rolling Stone, “He knew all about it, and then could put it to work. Just since the Sixties and Seventies and your Sam and Daves and your James Browns, he’s one of the greatest showmen to come along. I studied that stuff a lot and put as much of it to use as I can with my talents. But he just took it to another level.”
When speaking about the deaths, Springsteen also offered a moment of soulful reflection: “Well, I think we all sit back and go, ‘What?’ I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. Any death gives you renewed sight. It’s a part of what the dead pass on to us. A chance to look at our lives and look at the world again. It’s just a powerful experience.”
There are a few lessons to be learned here for any budding musician. Firstly, there is nothing more important to a rock star than their performance. Next, one must always provide oneself with an ample curriculum of weird and wonderful music to bolster any foray into the world of music. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, to always let inspiration take hold of you, no matter the source.
After all, if a megastar like Bruce Springsteen can be humbled by a younger performer, then you can too.