The president and the rock star met on the 2008 campaign trail, and over the years they have cultivated a warm friendship. In January 2017, as Obama was preparing to leave office, Springsteen gave an intimate, career-spanning performance at the White House, which he then developed into his solo show on Broadway. In “Renegades,” Obama, 59, and Springsteen, 71, laugh heartily as they recount some of the meals, chats and impromptu singalongs they have shared.
Dan Fierman, the head of Higher Ground Audio, said that Michelle Obama’s experience making her show last year spurred the former president to create his own podcast, and he selected Springsteen as his interlocutor. Their first recording session took place on July 30, just hours after Obama delivered the eulogy for John Lewis, the civil rights hero and congressman from Georgia.
Their conversation mingles the personal and the mythic. Obama discusses growing up in Hawaii with the confusion and discomfort of being of mixed race — “I wasn’t easily identifiable; I felt like an outsider,” he says — and they each share lessons of masculinity they drew from the failings of their own fathers.
They are a mutual admiration society. Springsteen, who now and then picks up a guitar, tells the story of his 1984 song “My Hometown,” with its echoes of racial conflict in the 1960s. He marvels at the universality and patriotism that comes through when concert crowds roar out its line, “This is your hometown.”
“I always get a sense that they know the town they’re talking about isn’t Freehold,” Springsteen says, referring to where he grew up in New Jersey. “It’s not Washington. It’s not Seattle. It’s the whole thing — it’s all of America.” Brief pause. “It’s a good song.”
“It’s a great song,” Obama quickly adds.
The show reflects a big-tent centrism that has long been part of both men’s approach. Springsteen released a Jeep ad during the latest Super Bowl — his first commercial ever — that called for Americans to meet in “the middle.”