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Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock 'n' Roll Hardcover – June 4, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“In an appreciative study that at times verges on the academic, Dolan traces Springsteen’s journey through a song-by-song and album-by-album development…” — Publishers Weekly

“ endeavors to get to the heart of its subject by viewing him through the economic, social, political, religious and family turmoil that formed a musician who found out early on how to make his guitar talk but spent painful decades refining what he needed to make it say. Springsteen’s creative evolution and endurance as a populist American rock ’n’ roll hero is, according to Dolan, "a slantwise way of telling the history of our times, how we have come together and divided over the last half-century, how we have changed what we think of ourselves as a people."” — Robin Finn (New York Times Book Review)

“Readable and engrossing.” — Booklist

“The definitive Springsteen biography/musical analysis, finely written and meticulously researched... by an academic who can write for a popular audience.... For fans, Dolan’s book is a necessary addition to the Springsteen library. For more casual listeners, who often wonder just what the fuss is all about, this volume is a good place to start.” — Michael Riley (Asbury Park Press)

“Dolan makes a point of telling more than just the Boss’ personal history, putting his putting his musical contributions in context with the country’s political state.” — radio.com

“Readable and engrossing.” — Booklist

About the Author

Marc Dolan is a professor at John Jay College and the City University of New York, where he teaches English, American studies, and film. A New Jersey native, he lives in Brooklyn, New York. 
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (June 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393081354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393081350
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.7 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #312,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M J Heilbron Jr. VINE VOICE on July 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Marc Dolan has written a fine addition to the Springsteen literary canon, an ever-enlarging library that now encompasses dozens of books. Each of those tomes has a particular purpose...a separate voice.
You have Springsteen's own "Songs", which peeks into his process and interpretations. The Dave Marsh books are the biographical bibles, so to speak, but seriously, he's a massive fan from the very beginnings of Springsteen's career. He's not, nor does he say he is, objective. There are others...

In fact, writing about Springsteen (like I sort of am here) or even listening to his music, cannot be objective.
This guy gets into the hearts and minds of people like few musical artists ever have.

Now, THIS book addresses his career using the albums as markers, not a bad way to go when reviewing a musician's career.
The emphasis is on the music, both studio recordings and tours. Clearly, this guy has heard a lot of bootlegs, but I was familiar with most of what he had to say just by listening to the formally released albums.

There wasn't a lot I didn't know (I'm a huge fan and a bit of a know-it-all)...but that didn't stop me from inhaling this book in a weekend, and enjoying every single minute.

In fact, the little things I learned...Billy Joel dedicating "The Entertainer" to Bruce at a concert in the 70's...kept me reading just to see what delightful nugget was to follow.

The reason I didn't pony up for a five-star rating is that I found the author's opinion intruded either too often, or too strongly, when discussing the music. Yes, we're fans, I get it. And like I said, I have no pretense about objectivity...but tonally...the flow of the book... suffered a few times because of it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This stunning, beautifully written biography was just named by the New York Journal of Books as one of a handful of "Outstanding Books that Best Represents America." I cannot do better than this review of it by Amanda Mark, a leading expert on American music and culture:

To those unfamiliar with the process of becoming a musical god (little g), it can sometimes seem like the feat was achieved overnight. Unless you are lucky enough to get in early and crowd the local dive bar at 2:30 A.M. every other Friday to catch the latest "It" band/singer, new superstars seem to Poof! into existence from zero to hero in less time than it takes to get to the bridge of a song.

Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock 'n' Roll is not a story of an instant celebrity. This fame and fortune was earned through a lot of blue-collar hard work and old-school American determination.

For those of us who grew up in the eighties, Bruce Springsteen was ubiquitous. He was The Boss. He was Born in the USA. But he didn't start at the top of the pack. It took practice and grit for Springsteen to pull himself out of Asbury Park, New Jersey.

That's what this story is about.

An obvious fan (who would choose to write almost 600 pages about someone they disliked?), Marc Dolan chronicles Springsteen's journey starting at the very beginning of The Boss's musical life, chronicling the purchase of his first instrument, an old second hand guitar. This is the same guitar that Springsteen used to teach himself "Twist and Shout."

But Mr. Dolan's book does not focus exclusively on Bruce Springsteen. Musicians are often reflections of the society in which they live and work.
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Format: Hardcover
This isn't a gossipy kind of biography. It's simply about a man and his music. I thought I was a huge Bruce fan, but I learned so much about the music from this book. The book is a historical tome on how Bruce's music evolved...what was going on in his life at the time, his struggle with fame, and how he has evolved as a man, a husband, father, a writer, an American citizen. A real fan of Bruce Springsteen will greatly appreciate the amazing detail in this book.
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I very much enjoyed this biography of Bruce Springsteen. Mr. Bruce is a huge topic, and his history is full of interesting tidbits, many of which are covered in this bio. Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock 'n' Roll was released during the same time frame as BRUCE by Mr. Carlin. The books are strikingly different in their approach and their theme. BRUCE received help from the Springsteen camp, while Marc Dolan was pretty much forced to do leather to pavement investigatory work to accomplish his results. I don't prefer either book over the other. I read them back to back, and I found them equally satisfying, but for different reasons.

Marc Dolan's approach to Springsteen is much more scholarly than Carlin's work, which comes off a bit too friendly, less objective. Dolan approaches many of Springsteen's artistic decisions with more depth and less celebrity. He also does an excellent job of tying Springsteen's success to his connection with his fans. Springsteen is like few others in that his fan base is passionate AND educated. He can write lyrics that are entertaining while also having depth and a good story. Dolan spends considerable time making that connection about the fans and the body of work. If you want to read about Springsteen, there are many bios out there, Dolan's is just as good and even better, in some cases, than any of them. Highly recommended.
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