Two guys discuss: Obama and Springsteen collaborate on the book “Renegades: Born in the USA”



Bruce Springsteen and Barack Obama.

The summer of 2020 has been a unique time in all of our lives, with the pandemic wreaking havoc, street protests and an extremely important election day looming. And it was during that summer that Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen began meeting, at Springsteen’s Colts Neck recording studio, for a series of conversations that aired as a podcast, in February and March 2021, under the title “Renegades: Born in the United States.”

An accompanying book, “Renegades: Born in the USA” (Crown Publishing, 320 pages, $ 50), is published on October 26. The two men claim, in their introductions, that all that is on our minds, now.

“[F]or all the change we’ve experienced as a nation and in our lives since Bruce and I first sat down together for our recording sessions, ”Obama writes,“ the underlying conditions that have driven our conversation have not disappeared. America remains more polarized than at any time we can remember – not just on issues like law enforcement, climate change, taxes and immigration, but on the very definitions of faith and family, on what constitutes justice and whose voices deserve to be heard. “

The cover of the book “Renegades: Born in the USA”.

“It’s a moment of vigilance where who we are is seriously tested,” Springsteen writes. “Difficult conversations about who we are and who we want to become can perhaps serve as a small orientation map for some of our fellow citizens. … These are treacherous times with a lot at stake – with everything at stake. “

Pretty serious stuff for a table book, I know. But rest assured, “Renegades” also has lighter content. As anyone who has listened to the “Renegades” podcast knows, these were high-profile conversations, touching on topics such as music, fatherhood, racism, love. You name him, he’s probably out there somewhere.

The conversational format also helps keep things from getting too dry. Sitting face to face (it wouldn’t have worked on Zoom), Obama and Springsteen tell stories about their lives, share memories and ideas, make jokes, and seem to enjoy each other’s presence. They seem, as much as possible under the circumstances, like two ordinary guys, talking.

So what’s in the book?

Well, mainly these are transcripts of the podcasts, in expanded form. (In other words, with some of the things that have been edited, edited again.)

This circa 1993 photo from the Springsteen family archives is included in the book “Renegades: Born in the USA”.

There are also the new introductions (two pages for Obama, one for Springsteen)… new photos from the podcast recording sessions… speeches Obama gave in draft form, with handwritten notes from Obama… lyrics by Conversational-relevant, typed or handwritten Springsteen songs… and political and cultural artifacts, including the incredible setlists from the 2009-15 series “In Performance at the White House”.

There are also four pages of handwritten notes from Springsteen for the “Renegades” recording sessions. On one, he writes: “From cacaphony [sic] democracy, I wanted to make a blinding noise that would pierce you to the bone + make you feel this idea.

What can be most interesting to a lot of people – appropriately enough, for a tabletop book – are the photos.

According to the publisher, the book contains more than 350 color photographs and illustrations. And both Obama and Springsteen have opened their family photo archives to editors. So we see them, not only as we are used to seeing them (i.e. doing their respective jobs), but with their wives and children, at home or on vacation. And that helps to accentuate the idea – which was already there, of course – that “Renegades” is a very personal, very intimate project.

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