Bruce Springsteen, one of the world’s most beloved live performers who has played in some three dozen countries around the world in a career spanning five decades, told a fan from Jerusalem that he “needs” to play in Israel.
Springsteen made the comment at a book-signing last week for his new autobiography “Born to Run,” at a Barnes & Noble store in his hometown of Freehold, New Jersey.
Lifelong Springsteen fan Amy Kalman, a mother of four who moved to Jerusalem from Toronto in the early 1980s, told The Times of Israel on Thursday that she had flown in just for the day from Israel for the rare opportunity to get a few seconds of one-on-one time with Springsteen at the signing.
She happened to be online when the 2,000 free tickets to meet Springsteen at the store were made available, and decided to make the trip.
Each of the lucky 2,000 purchased a copy of his book pre-signed by Springsteen and got to pose for a photo with him and talk with him very briefly. Kalman decided she would use her moment to ask Springsteen to play a show in Israel.
“When we met, I said to him, ‘I just want you to know that I’ve flown in for the day from Israel,'” Kalman told The Times of Israel.
“And he said, ‘Well, that gets a hug.'”
Kalman went on: “I’d been thinking on the plane about, how could I say to him, nu, play in Israel already. But I didn’t get to say any of that because he immediately said, ‘I really need to play there.'”
“And I said, ‘Yes, you really do!'”
Then, Kalman said, she told Springsteen, “Thank you for sharing your hopes and dreams, music and love with so many people. And he said, ‘Thank you, I appreciate that.’ And by then, my time was over. I’d had my moment.”
Asked why it had been so important for her to encourage Springsteen to play an Israel concert, Kalman said simply: “Because he’s played everywhere else. It should have been on his bucket list. He has so many fans here. I live here, and I’d love to see him play here. He has tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of fans here.”
She said she was struck by his “immediate” response to her telling him she was from Israel. “There wasn’t even a nanosecond between me saying Israel and him offering the hug and saying he needed to play here,” she said.
Kalman said she has been a Springsteen fan since 1975, when she bought the “Born to Run” album as a young teen. She first saw him play live in 1978, and has seen him in concert many times since.
In July, she, her husband, two sons and a daughter-in-law flew to Zurich to see his concert there, incidentally running in to Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid and his wife, who had made the same journey for the same reason.
Springsteen, who marked his 67th birthday two weeks ago, has just completed a mammoth world tour, with dates across the US and Europe, centered on the 35th anniversary of his album “The River,” and has routinely been playing rave-reviewed concerts lasting close to and sometimes over four hours a night.
The Boss and the Tribe
Springsteen, who has Irish, Dutch and Italian ancestry and was raised a Catholic, has a multitude of Israeli and Jewish connections.
Israeli singer, songwriter, actress, screenwriter and multi-award-winning author Suki Lahav played violin and sang with Springsteen and his E Street Band in the early 1970s, when her then-husband Louis was Springsteen’s sound engineer at 914 Sound Studios in Blauvelt, New York. The young Israeli musician, who was born on Kibbutz Ayelet Hashahar in the Upper Galilee, sang uncredited on “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” on Springsteen’s second album, and played violin on stage as an unofficial member of the band on songs including the harrowing “Lost in the Flood,” the elegant “Incident on 57th Street,” the West Side Story-esque “Jungleland,” and early versions of one of Springsteen’s most acclaimed songs, “Thunder Road.”
Springsteen’s drummer in the E Street band, Max Weinberg, is Jewish. His parents ran a Jewish summer camp. Springsteen’s piano player Roy Bittan once described his playing style as “that of a little Jewish kid with an accordion.”
Springsteen’s longtime manager and producer Jon Landau is Jewish, and his first manager, Mike Appel, is a quarter Jewish, courtesy of his father’s father.
Appel told The Times of Israel last year he had no idea why Springsteen hasn’t played Israel: “I mean it’s another country for him to conquer. He’s conquered the damn world.
“Why not knock off Israel while you’re at it?” said Appel. “So, it baffles me. I don’t know why.”
Springsteen has also appeared at numerous events with Jewish resonance, including a 20th anniversary gala for Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation in 2014.
Several of his songs draw on Jewish and Biblical themes, with references to Moses and the Flood, and some even have Biblical references in their titles, notably including “The Promised Land” and “Adam Raised a Cain.”
A prominent supporter of presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and a withering critic of Republican candidate Donald Trump, Springsteen has never taken a public position on Israel.
His guitarist and lifelong friend Steven Van Zandt, however, fervently defended the Jewish state this spring when challenged in a Twitter row with BDS activists and other critics on the issue of the ostensible “rogue” state of Israel. “You and the other Israel boycotters are politically ignorant obnoxious idiots. Israel is one of our two friends in the Middle East,” wrote Van Zandt, a veteran anti-apartheid activist.
In a subsequent tweet, Van Zandt told Israel critics to “get educated.” When it was put to him that “Israel totally meets apartheid definition under under itl law” (sic), Van Zandt came back with, “Trust me I am at least as aware of most of the injustices around the world as you are. One solution does not fit all,” and “The problems there have existed for a thousand years and you want the solution in 140 characters?” and, finally, “I understand how it might appear that way but your analysis is incorrect. It’s a lot more complicated than SA.”
Sweetening the new year
Back in Jerusalem, Kalman said she has no desire to get into the political dimension of a Springsteen concert in Israel, and just hopes he adds the Holy Land to his concert map.
She said she took Springsteen a gift of a jar of Israeli honey; fans’ gifts, with a personal message, were welcomed, and fans were assured they would be given to Springsteen later.
In her accompanying message, Kalman wrote to Springsteen, “My wish to you on this New Year is that it should be a sweet and healthy one for you and all those you love, and, that you will bring your own sweet soul to Israel in the coming year.”