In his acclaimed return to Broadway this week, rock-and-roll star Bruce Springsteen spoke emotionally about his mother, Adele Springsteen, and candidly talked about her decadelong struggle with Alzheimer's disease.
The New Jersey native opened up about his mother's personality and presence when he was growing up, highlighting her "jolly old soul." It was her love of music and dancing that influenced Springsteen and his sisters as they grew up. She even nudged him down a musical path and rented him his very first guitar when he was 7 years old.
"My mother loves to dance," Springsteen said during his Thursday show. "She grew up in the '40s ... (with) the big bands and the swing bands, and that was a time when dancing was an existential act.
"She's 95 and she's 10 years into Alzheimer's and that’s taken a lot away from us," he continued. "But the need to dance hasn't left her."
Springsteen said that despite her Alzheimer's, his mother still recognizes him at the moment.
"She can't speak. She can't stand. She can't feed herself. But when she sees me, there is always a smile. Still a smile. And there's still a kiss," Springsteen said. "And there's a sound which she makes when she sees me. It's just the sound but I know it means 'I love you.'
"And when I put on Glen Miller and she starts moving in her chair — she does, she does — she starts reaching out for me, to take her in my arms once more and to dance with her across the floor."
Springsteen continued, "This is an essential part of mom’s spirt, it’s who she is. It’s beyond language and it’s more powerful than memory. It’s the embodiment. This is what she has put her trust in and lived her life by and which, despite all she has suffered, she carries on with to this moment, as if life’s beauty never deserted her. I love her."
During his emotional show, Springsteen also talked about his relationship with his father, Douglas Springsteen, who died in 1998. He said that even though they had struggled in the past, his father was still "his hero."
Springsteen's concert engagement is the first full-capacity show to return to Broadway in New York City after the coronavirus pandemic shut down theaters more than 15 months ago. With 26 show dates lined up till September, "Springsteen on Broadway" is a return of his popular 2017 concert, though some changes have been made to reflect current events.
In another moment during his Thursday show, Springsteen addressed a recent run-in with authorities. In November 2020, he was arrested at Gateway National Recreation Area in Sandy Hook, New Jersey on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. Springsteen said that he was "handcuffed and thrown in jail" before he was required to appear in court three months later.
"I had to go to Zoom court! That was fun. My case was the United States of America vs. Bruce Springsteen. That’s very comforting to hear," he joked. "The entire nation — every man, woman, dog and child — is aligned against you. You have managed to engage in an act so heinous, so beyond the pale, it has offended the entire f---ing United States. You, my recalcitrant, bridge-and-tunnel, lawbreaking friend, have drunk two shots of tequila, and you will pay!"
Springsteen also addressed what he has been up to in the past year. He released a new album, published a book, and even became a podcaster, releasing an original podcast with former President Barack Obama. Springsteen said that even when things look grim, it can help to do what you love.
"Remember that the future is not yet written, so when things look dark, do as my mighty mom would insist: Lace up your dancing shoes, get out on the floor and get to work," he said.