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Springsteen’s Handwritten ‘Born to Run’ Lyrics Head to Auction

on Mittwoch, 27 November 2013. Posted in General Autograph News


The lyrics to “Born to Run,” the evocative title track of Bruce Springsteen’s third album, from 1975, seem to roll off Mr. Springsteen’s tongue on the recording, a torrent of inspired urban car-culture imagery.

But a page torn from a spiral-bound notebook that once belonged to Mr. Springsteen, which is currently up for auction at Sotheby’s, shows that it was a long road from Mr. Springsteen’s early thoughts about the song to its finished version.

Bruce Springsteen's lyrics for SothebyBruce Springsteen’s lyrics for “Born to Run.”

The manuscript, said to date from 1974, includes 30 lines in Mr. Springsteen’s handwriting, neatly written in blue ink, but with second thoughts added in the margins and in the space above some of the lyrics. Certain key phrases, or early versions of them, are present – “this town’ll rip the bones from your back, it’s a suicide trap” (Mr. Springsteen has written “rap” over the last word) is there, as is “tramps like us baby we were born to run.” 

But most of the lines in this version vanished as Mr. Springsteen worked on the song. For example: “I looked out cross my hood + saw the highway buckle neath the wheels of a gold Chevy 6.” That is followed by a numbered choice of lines: “I was headin for the place were good girls die in the arms of wild angels in one last kiss,” and “I was headin for the place where wild angels die in an everlasting or neverending kiss” – an image that, in altered form, made its way to the finished song.

Mr. Springsteen wrote the song during an important moment in his career. His first two albums, “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.,” and “The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle,” both released in 1973, had won him a devoted but small following, as well as critical acclaim, but it was “Born to Run,” which he took a year and a half to record, that established him as a superstar.

Richard Austin, the head of the books and manuscripts department at Sotheby’s, said that he could not identify the seller, but said that the page had once belonged to Mr. Springsteen’s manager at the time, Mike Appel. “He sold it to a collector, who sold it to the current consignor,” Mr. Austin said. He added that it had never come up for auction before.

“Bruce Springsteen manuscripts don’t come up often,” Mr. Austin said. “There have been a few fragments over the last five to 10 years, but nothing of this importance. There are verses here that will be unfamiliar even to hardcore fans.”

The manuscript will be on public display at Sotheby’s, 1334 York Ave, starting Saturday, and will be auctioned on Dec. 5. Sotheby’s expects it to sell for $70,000 to $100,000.

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