What do Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, Elvis Costello and Keith Richards have in common?

What do Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, Elvis Costello and Keith Richards have in common?
Bruce Springsteen performs at the 2009 Super Bowl. He's written a memoir. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Memoirs, memoirs, memoirs. Add Grace Jones, Chrissie Hynde, Lita Ford, John Fogerty and more. You can't shake a stick at the pop charts of the '70s and '80s these days without a pile of memoirists tumbling out.

On Thursday, Simon & Schuster announced that Bruce Springsteen will publish a memoir this fall. What's the title?


"Born to Run," of course.

Although I bet "Asbury Park" was a close second, as the small New Jersey town will figure prominently in his narrative. Simon & Schuster writes, "He vividly recounts his relentless drive to become a musician, his early days as a bar band king in Asbury Park, and the rise of the E Street Band."

Springsteen went from bar band king to stadium king on the strength of his classic albums "Born to Run" and "Born in the U.S.A."

The latter inadvertently became a patriotic rallying anthem for Republican leaders like Ronald Reagan in the last days of the Cold War. Springsteen's politics are much further to the left, as he's shown in later, smaller records such as "The Ghost of Tom Joad" and "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions."

That contrast may provide for an interesting story. But Springsteen fans are more likely to be reading to find his secrets, not his politics. For true fans who've been devotedly listening to the songs for decades, an autobiography offers the opportunity to find out what those lyrics really meant.

When Carly Simon's memoir "The Boys in the Trees" was published in November, people rushed to find out exactly who the song "You're So Vain" was about (and were partially satisfied).

With Springsteen, there is a promise of intimacy. "In Born to Run, Mr. Springsteen describes growing up in Freehold, New Jersey, amid the 'poetry, danger, and darkness' that fueled his imagination," Simon and Schuster writes. "With disarming candor, he also tells for the first time the story of the personal struggles that inspired his best work, and shows us why the song 'Born to Run' reveals more than we previously realized."

There's only a tiny snippet of prose in the release to see how Springsteen will do on the page: "Writing about yourself is a funny business. But in a project like this, the writer has made one promise, to show the reader his mind.  In these pages, I've tried to do this."

The rock star memoir craze began with Keith Richards, whose 2009 memoir "Life" topped best-seller lists. The lead guitarist of the Rolling Stones, it turned out, recalled the band's exploits with startling clarity. The 2010 Patti Smith memoir "Just Kids," about her down-and-out youth with Robert Mapplethorpe in New York, won the National Book Award. Publishers soon raced to sign up other chart-topping musicians, hoping to duplicate their successes.

If only they'd gotten to David Bowie before it was too late.

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