“Outlaw Pete”: Bruce Springsteen and the Dream-Work of Cosmic American Music

Peter J. Fields

Abstract


During the 2006 Seeger Sessions tour, Springsteen shared his deep identification with the internal struggle implied by old spirituals like “Jacob’s Ladder.” While the Magic album seemed to veer wide of the Seeger Sessions ethos, Working on a Dream re-engages mythically with what Greil Marcus would call “old, weird America” and Gram Parsons deemed “cosmic American music.” Working suggests the universe operates according to “cosmic” principles of justice, judgment, and salvation, but is best understood from the standpoint of what Freud would call “dream work” and “dream thoughts.” As unfolded in Frank Caruso’s illustrations for the picturebook alter ego of Working‘s “Outlaw Pete,” these dynamics may allude to Springsteen’s conflicted relationship with his father.  


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