The narrator of Bruce Springsteen’s song “Drive Fast (The Stuntman)” was born to run. When he was 19, he sings, “I liked the pedal and I didn’t mind the wall.”
But his love of car racing led to a career as a Hollywood stuntman, and now he’s older, and paying the price: “I got two pins in my ankle and a busted collarbone/A steel rod in my leg, but it walks me home.”
Springsteen sounds sad and somber throughout the song. The thrill-seeking character has apparently applied his racing philosophy (“Drive fast, fall hard … Don’t worry about tomorrow”) to his love life. He remembers an affair he had with an movie star (“She liked her guys a little greasy and ‘neath her pay grade”). He doesn’t say much about it, but the implication is that it didn’t work out. He and she “figured maybe together we could get the broken pieces to fit,” he sings; that isn’t something you’d say if there were a happily-ever-after ending to the story.
Anyway, after he sings the last chorus, the orchestral arrangement swells gorgeously. It’s as if he’s riding off into the sunset — things haven’t worked out, but he’s a bit wiser, maybe, and proud to have at least lived life on his own terms.
He then repeats the song’s opening lines, about the pins in his ankle and the steel rod in his leg. That cinematic escape was just momentary: For the stuntman, there is no escaping physical reality.
Background facts: “Drive Fast (The Stuntman)” is from Bruce Springsteen’s 2019 album, Western Stars. Original E Street Band keyboardist David Sancious, playing organ, is among the backing musicians on the track.
On each of the 70 days leading up to Bruce Springsteen’s 70th birthday (on Sept. 23, 2019), NJArts.net will do a post on one of The Boss’ best songs of the last 30 years. We’re starting with No. 70 and working our way up. For more on the project, click here.
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