'We've got a shared sensibility': Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen team up to launch new podcast

Josie Ensor
·3 min read
Bruce Springsteen, left, appears with former President Barack Obama during their podcast of conversations recorded at Springsteen's home studio in New Jersey. - Spotify
Bruce Springsteen, left, appears with former President Barack Obama during their podcast of conversations recorded at Springsteen's home studio in New Jersey. - Spotify

Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen have launched a new podcast, in which the pair intimately discuss race, fatherhood and the country’s painful divisions.

The liberal icons - two of America’s biggest names - have teamed up in an unlikely pairing for the eight-part series Renegades: Born in the USA.

The show is produced by Higher Ground Productions, the company founded by Mr Obama and his wife, Michelle, and hosted by platform Spotify, which described it as the highest-profile collaboration in the history of podcasting.

"On the surface, Bruce and I don't have a lot in common,” Mr Obama says, introducing the first episode, Outsiders: An Unlikely Friendship.

“But over the years, what we’ve found is that we’ve got a shared sensibility. About work, about family and about America. In our own ways, Bruce and I have been on parallel journeys trying to understand this country that’s given us both so much."

The former president and the rock star met on the 2008 campaign trail, and remained close friends over the years. In 2017, as Mr Obama was preparing to leave office, Springsteen gave an intimate, career-spanning performance at the White House.

Mr Obama, 57, discusses his childhood in Hawaii with the confusion and discomfort of being of mixed race. “I wasn’t easily identifiable; I felt like an outsider,” he says in Renegades, which was recorded in 71-year-old Springsteen’s studio in New Jersey.

They go on to both describe learning lessons in how to bring up children from the failings of their own fathers.

Springsteen also says he felt the pain of being “invisible” until he began performing, saying it gave him a voice.

“It allows you to express the entirety of your life, your being,” he tells Mr Obama.

“This is how we became friends,” the former president replies. “The kind of thing that you just said here is how we became friends - in between drinks and a few songs - I’d say huh, that makes sense to me.”

The Born in the US star, who has voted Democrat since Ronald Reagan, has steered away from politics in his 50-year career. But in a rare political intervention in the run-up to the 2020 election he released an audio message urging Americans to vote Donald Trump out of office.

“There’s no art in this White House, there’s no literature, no poetry, no music,” said Springsteen, nicknamed The Boss.

“Where did that country go? Where did all the fun, the joy and expression of love and happiness go? We used to have a president who calmed and soothed the nation instead of dividing it. We are rudderless and joyless.”

Mr Obama says little about his successor in the episodes released so far apart from one comment: “For three years I’d had to watch a presidential successor who was diametrically opposed to everything I believed in ... And witnessed a country that seemed to be getting angrier and more divided with each passing day.”