Sunday, September 07, 2014

Book Review: Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin

Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin
Hardcover: 512 pages
Publisher: Touchstone (October 30, 2012)

Bruce is the first authorized Bruce Springsteen biography to have been written in the last 25 years with the full cooperation of the Boss himself.

This sweeping portrait is the latest in a series of musical biographies written by Carlin, who previously has written on Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson.

In writing Bruce, Carlin had unprecedented access to Springsteen, his family, friends, past and present bandmates, including one of the final major interviews with Clarence Clemons.  It all adds a vivid, initmate detail, and context to a groundbreaking picture of the Boss.

As a songwriter, Springsteen has voices hopes, triumphs, and heartaches of the working class.  His career has brought him 20 Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes, an Academy Award, and over 120 million albums sold.

Carlin follows the Elvis-loving grade student as he grows into that scruffy looking bandleader all the way up to the release of Wrecking Ball in 2012.  With the release of Born to Run, Springsteen rocketed into critical and commercial orbit.  No concert goes without the singing of "Born to Run."  The album is a keystone of Springsteen's musical legacy--one that would both reflect and shape the culture.

Along with years of meticulous research, Carlin has spent a countless number of hours in interviewing Springsteen, his inner circle, friends, musicians, and even ex-girlfriends. It all builds up to presenting the most revealing account of the American icon, even as he redefines his style and sound.

Until Carlin started writing the biography, not many family members had done interviews on the rocker.  The Springsteen family was impacted by mental illness and Bruce managed to avoid the fate of his father by years of therapy and even anti-depressant medications.

The E Street Band share their memories of the first time they met Bruce and their painful memories including in 1989 when Springsteen was disbanding the band.

Bruce's gradual journey towards being a committed and influential voice in politics was validated when President Barack Obama spoke at a reception for Kennedy Center honorees.

Carlin offers a nuanced analysis of every song and album that Bruce has made.  Five months before the release of Wrecking Ball, Bruce had played a dough mix in the studio.

This definitive biography is compulsively readable, and a must for all fans of the Boss.

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