Too often rock biographies seek to canonize their subjects, offering up for consecration the revelatory details of sexual conquests, pharmacological overindulgences, and distended egos. In an art awash with tragic figures and truncated careers, perhaps the story of a musician possessed of an integrity matched only by his commitment to craft is the exception that belies the rule. Bruce, Peter Ames Carlin's third work about one of rock 'n' roll's elite (after books on Paul McCartney and the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson), chronicles the life and career of Bruce Springsteen, an artist for whom the excesses of superstardom proved to be of little appeal.
With unrestrained (and unprecedented) access to those closest to Springsteen, including his immediate family, friends, bandmates, and producers alike, Carlin reveals a man whose often contradictory nature helped shape and define not only his professional life but his personal one as well. While not an authorized biography (in the sense that editorial control was wielded from afar), Bruce was written with the blessing of Springsteen himself — having granted Carlin hours of interviews ("[He] made it clear that the only thing I owed him was an honest account of his life."). Equitable and impartial, Bruce provides just that: the most candid and complete glimpse into the rocker's past and present that has yet been published. As one of the more enigmatic figures in American music, discerning the man from the myth was likely no small task.
Beginning with his frequently tumultuous family life growing up in the blue-collar neighborhoods of Monmouth County, New Jersey, Bruce traces the trajectory of Springsteen's formative years as a youngster in awe of Elvis Presley to a guitar-laden loner with a preternatural devotion to his instrument of choice. Working chronologically from his early work with shore-based bands and his first recording contract in 1972, Carlin paints the portrait of a passionate performer intent on making it big. Covering all 17 studio albums — from his debut, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. (recorded some 40 years ago) to 2012's acclaimed Wrecking Ball — Bruce recalls, in detail, the significant recording sessions, concerts, tours, personnel changes, and inevitable conflicts that have marked his four decades with the inimitable E Street Band.
The complexity of Springsteen's paradoxical character is well-conveyed, as are the personal struggles he endured to attain the pinnacles of fame and commercial success. Carlin's shrewd observations of Springsteen as a man often in conflict with his own opposing internal forces (the need for privacy versus the desire for notoriety) allow for the impression of an imperfect yet honorable individual. Carlin's Bruce is the earnest, compelling biography of a man who often exemplifies the better traits of those he's spent nearly a half century singing about: empathy, compassion, dedication, and a dissatisfaction with the status quo. While many a biography has been written about Springsteen, Bruce will likely serve as the most definitive — unless, of course, the Boss himself were to turn his gifted pen from composing songs to writing memoir. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
This sweeping biography of one of America's greatest musicians is the first in twenty-five years to be written with the cooperation of Bruce Springsteen himself. With unfettered access to the artist, his family, and band members — including Clarence Clemons in his last major interview — acclaimed music writer Peter Ames Carlin presents a startlingly intimate and vivid portrait of a rock icon.
For more than four decades, Bruce Springsteen has reflected the heart and soul of America with a career that includes twenty Grammy Awards, more than 120 million albums sold, two Golden Globes, and an Academy Award. He has also become an influential voice in American culture and politics, inspiring President Barack Obama to admit: "I'm the president, but he's the Boss."
Built from years of research and unparalleled access to its subject and his inner circle, Bruce presents the most revealing account yet of a man laden with family tragedy, a tremendous dedication to his artistry, and an all-consuming passion for fame and influence. With this book, the E Street Band members finally bare their feelings about their abrupt dismissal in 1989, and how Springsteen's ambivalence nearly capsized their 1999 reunion. Carlin deftly traces Springsteen's often harrowing personal life: from his lower working-class childhood in Freehold, New Jersey, through his stubborn climb to fame and tangled romantic life, and finally to his quest to conquer the demons that nearly destroyed his father.
In Bruce, Carlin encompasses the breadth of Springsteen's astonishing career and explores the inner workings of a man who managed to redefine generations of music. A must for fans, Bruce is a meticulously researched, compulsively readable biography of one of the most complex and fascinating artists in American music.
"Rock biographer (Paul McCartney) delivers a straight-on, rockin' and rollin' life of the Jersey youngster who sold his soul to rock and roll the night he saw Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1957. Drawing on exclusive interviews with members of the E Street Band, including Clarence Clemons's final interview, and unrestricted conversations with Springsteen's family, friends, manager Jon Landau, and Springsteen himself, Carlin takes us on a fascinating journey through Springsteen's childhood, youth, and his rise to fame out of his early years playing in bands such as the Castiles, Earth, and Child to his most recent concerts in support of his Wrecking Ball album. Carlin energetically drives through the streets of Asbury Park, the bars and arenas around the world where Springsteen continues to work his magic. Carlin gives Springsteen the definitive treatment, and this is by far the best of the many books about the rock and roller, capturing his many moods, his desire to retain his privacy, but his secret craving for superstardom, and, above all, his consummate musicianship and his deep passion for pleasing audiences with rollicking, energetic shows. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"There are many things I could and should be doing right now, but I am not... I am reading and rereading this book. Why did you do this to me?" Jon Stewart
"An epic look at the man and his music." Kirkus Reviews
"Springsteen is biographical big game: majestic, fugitive, offering the unwary chronicler the possibility that he might get trampled. But Carlin has brought him down, with empathy and shrewdness. Here is Bruce, stylishly captured in all his Brucedom; the everyman, the unknowable; the anointed one, the loner; stadium swagger and dull, private pain. Are these contradictions, or just the span of a man's soul? Read Bruce and find out." James Parker, The Atlantic
"Bruce Springsteen has been a muscular American icon for so long it's hard to remember that he was once a scrawny kid from Nowhere, New Jersey, struggling to find his way. Peter Ames Carlin not only brings that kid into sharp focus, he connects the dots between the small-town boy and the superstar he became, in all his memorable incarnations — boardwalk poet, working-class hero, middle-aged philosopher, rock and roll evangelist, political activist. This is the big, expansive biography Bruce's fans have been waiting for." Tom Perrotta
"This is a Bruce bio like no other. Carlin's dogged research, tough-minded prose, and above all, ability to draw out the previously private thoughts of almost everyone involved in this remarkable story combine to transform much of what we thought we knew about Bruce. Carlin's recounting of Springsteen's personal and professional struggles, and those of the members of the mighty E Street Band, make this a quintessential American story and one that will resonate, and inspire, as long as the music itself does." Eric Alterman, author of It Ain't No Sin to Be Glad You're Alive: The Promise of Bruce Springsteen
This sweeping biography of Bruce Springsteen features in-depth interviews with family, band members, childhood friends, ex-girlfriends, and a poignant retrospective from the Boss himself. It's Bruce as his many fans haven't before seen him — the man behind the myth, describing his life and work in intimate, vivid detail.
For close to four decades, Bruce Springsteen has reflected the heart and soul of America in a career that encompasses twenty Grammy Awards, more than 120 million albums sold, two Golden Globes, and an Academy Award.
In a groundbreaking biography that draws on unprecedented access to Springsteen and those closest to him, acclaimed music critic Peter Ames Carlin presents the most revealing account yet of New Jersey's favorite son. With contributions from band members past and present, including the last interview given by legendary saxophonist Clarence Clemons, Bruce encompasses the breadth of Springsteen's astonishing career and explores the inner workings of an American icon right up through his most recent sold-out tour and #1 album, Wrecking Ball.
A must for fans, Bruce is a meticulously researched, compulsively readable biography of one of the most complex and fascinating artists in American music.
About the Author
Peter Ames Carlin has been a senior writer for People, a TV critic for The Oregonian newspaper, and is the author of Catch a Wave and Paul McCartney: A Life. Carlin lives in Portland, Oregon.