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Bruce Paperback – September 30, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 304 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

For this authorized biography of anthemic rocker Bruce Springsteen, music critic and unabashed Springsteen fan Carlin, who has also written about Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney, was able to obtain interviews with many of the musician’s closest friends and relatives. His access to, among others, Springsteen’s mother, sisters, early bandmates, and high-school pals makes for an unusually intimate portrait. Carlin provides detailed accounts of the musician’s personal and professional life, from his lower-working-class childhood in Freehold, New Jersey, to his social invisibility in high school, to his local and then regional popularity, and then worldwide stardom. Along the way, Springsteen battled depression, which also afflicted his father; eschewed drugs and alcohol; juggled numerous romantic entanglements; and worked tirelessly on his music and his stage presence, morphing from a shy loner to a mesmerizing performer of hours-long concerts. Like many highly creative people, he was fairly ruthless about allowing his music to dictate his direction, which sometimes led to dissension within the E-Street Band. Springsteen emerges from these pages as a hard worker and a painstaking musician who has never forgotten his working-class roots. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Published in conjunction with Bruce Springsteen’s worldwide tour in support of his latest album, this authorized biography is sure to draw plenty of off-the-book-page interest. --Joanne Wilkinson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Bruce delivers. . . . Carlin gets across why Mr. Springsteen has meant so much, for so long, to so many people.” (New York Times)

“Do we need another Springsteen biography? The answer, here, is yes, thanks in large part to Carlin’s tireless reporting, which helps straighten out some of the lore-laden stories of Springsteen’s early years in New Jersey, and further illuminates his later struggles with depression.” (Boston Globe)

"There are probably more books about Bruce Springsteen than there are about any other rock star of his generation. But until one comes out with the words 'By Bruce Springsteen' on the cover, Bruce will be the definitive one." (The Star-Ledger)

“Interviews with bandmates, family members, and exes paint an unflinching portrait of the rock icon.... Dives into Springsteen’s personal life in unprecedented depth.... No previous biographer has uncovered as much about Springsteen’s family.” (Rolling Stone)

“Carlin’s exhaustively researched portrait of rock and roll’s working-class hero delivers everything a fan could wish for.” (People)

"An astute engaging account." (USA Today)

“An honest portrayal of the rock & roll legend.” (Entertainment Weekly)

"An epic look at the man and his music." (Kirkus Reviews)

"For all those of us who grew up on the Jersey Shore, chasing Bruce and the band every weekend: the chase is over. It’s all here. Everything we didn't know then -- we're surprised to learn now. It's close, it's intimate -- the master of introspection allows some full-on inspection of his life." (Brian Williams, NBC News)

“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)

“The notoriously private Springsteen lends enough of his voice to Carlin’s biography to enhance its credibility. . .. Unless Springsteen decides to pen a memoir, this is as close as we’ll get to Springsteen unmasked.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

“Though not officially an official biography, it's close, with access to Springsteen, his family members and family archives making for a far more detailed and comprehensive chronicle than Dave Marsh's enthusiastic books from '79 and '87." (Chicago Tribune / Printers Row)

“An unusually intimate portrait.” (Booklist)

"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)

"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." (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“This definitive biography leaves all other Springsteen books in the dust of its roaring engines.” (BookPage)

"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)

“If there is anyone who writes about modern musicians better than Carlin does, I don’t know who it could possibly be.” (Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights)

"You can toss those other tomes; Peter Ames Carlin has just penned the definitive biography of Bruce Sprinsteen....A richly researched, extraordinarily entertaining story of one local boy who did pretty darn well for himself." (Ashbury Park Press)

"A solid must-read-thrice for any fan of the superstar....Even for those who have been baptized into the Springsteen 'religion,' the book has major revelations. 'Bruce' is now the preeminent reference in the study of all things Bruce." (The Coaster, Ashbury Park, NJ) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd; paperback / softback edition (September 30, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781471112720
  • ISBN-13: 978-1471112720
  • ASIN: 1471112721
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (304 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,139,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Peter Ames Carlin's biography of Paul McCartney wasn't quite the definitive Macca bio...but it was the best so far. Same thing with this examination of Springsteen's life. It's great, but with an extra push he could have pushed this into a form of transcendence.

Overall, I liked the writing. It's mostly breezy, and even the footnotes are fun. Some of the phrases made me cringe--they weren't quite purple prose, but a long dip into the inkpot--but I found it engaging. (As a consequence, though, the readability of Carlin's art made the clunkers stand out even more.) With close to three decades of Bruce fandom under my belt, I learned a lot about the man, his early years and of course his career. (Example: For the first time, I think, I finally 'got' the Mike Appel lawsuit.) Clearly Carlin researched his topic thoroughly, and his account of the early days of Springsteen's career has a day-to-day immediacy to it that is exhilarating.

My main complaint is that the ending doesn't hold up to the first four hundred pages or so. Events are presented a bit out of order, or then there's a first mention of a person who, it occurs to you, should have been mentioned many chapters before. Much of what is depicted there has the air of 'You already know this, so I'll rush through it.' For all the effort put into illustrating the Boss' early years and first couple of albums, I would have appreciated a similar treatment for (to date) late-Springsteen music--even if it made the bio run another couple hundred of pages (or even into a second volume at a later date).

Do I recommend this book? Sure. As I said, it's the best Boss bio so far. But can it be topped? One day, perhaps. In BRUCE, Carlin, as he did with McCartney, presents his subject as human, driven, mercurial, brilliant and flawed--which is really all one can hope for from a well-done biography.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In some ways, this biography is a rehash on the biography's by Dave Marsh (Born to Run and Glory Days), but what Marsh didn't give us, this book does, an intimate account of Bruce's early life in New Jersey, to include dealing with a Manic Depressant father, which fueled Bruce's loneliness (but gave us wonderful songs) and some very personal behind the scenes accounts of life on E-Street.

I've been a fan for nearly 40 years and Bruce has kept his personal life very guarded, which is ok with me and I respect that, but the effect of that has been a vision of Bruce constructed only from what his machine gave us.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the details of his early life. I've grown up with Bruce through his stories about his relationship with his father as told on stage and through his songs, but those only paint a picture of a father and son not getting along, as most fathers and sons don't. The fact that Mr. Springsteen suffered from depression (and I would even bet it was PTSD from the traumatic loss of his sister from a horrific accident when they were young) has given me a whole new perspective to what a young Bruce, his Mom and his sisters must have endured. His father wasn't just a stern, hardened man of the era wanting his son to pursue a noble profession, he was a deeply hurt man isolated and unable to connect with his family. This kind of depression went largely undiagnosed in those days and people had to deal with it the best they could, not truly knowing what was wrong. Bruce's way of dealing with it was in words and music. A lot of teenagers are attracted to strapping on a guitar and being in a band just because it made you cool and you got all of the girls. Bruce strapped on that guitar to escape a fate he didn't want anything to do with.
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"Bruce" is an interesting book to review, because even though I have a bunch of complaints, it's still a wonderful book, worthy of five stars.

Let's start with my complaints:

First, this is a long book for a rock and roll biography. As I joked to my wife: I now feel like I know more about Bruce Springsteen's life than I know about her life. This is especially true when it comes to Springsteen's family history. In fact, author Peter A. Carlin devoted so much space to Springsteen's ancestors that I almost became too bored to continue. If genealogy is your thing, chapter one is for you!

Despite the book's length, many of my questions remained unanswered:

1) How and when did the E Street Band get its name? Carlin just brings up the subject as an aside, by stating, "now dubbed the E Street Band."

2) This one is pretty obscure: When I was in school, I was a huge fan of both Bruce Springsteen and Graham Parker. So in 1980, when Springsteen joined Parker on the song "Endless Night," it was the coolest thing I could have imagined at the time. What happened when those two got together seems to be a lost story, and it would have been an interesting addition to the book.

3) There is very little in "Bruce" about the two prominent women in the E Street family, Patti Scialfa and Soozie Tyrell. Carlin mentioned that Patti stayed out of the interview process, but even so, he used plenty of secondary sources for other parts of the book. Why not do the same for Scialfa and Tyrell?

4) Here's the most important subject I would have liked Carlin to address: How does Bruce, now in his sixties, still manage to physically out-perform everyone else in rock and roll? Just stating that he frequents a local gym isn't enough.
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