Monday, February 25, 2013


Bruce, by Peter Ames Carlin

Somehow, I'm not sure why, I was late to the Bruce Springsteen train. I knew his more popular songs and liked them, but it wasn't until I went to my first Springsteen concert with my teenage son last November that I became a convert.

Peter Ames Carlin, a writer for the Oregonian and author of several musician bios, interviewed Bruce and his colleagues and pored over the albums, articles, and interviews to create this exhaustive (and some say, exhausting) biography. At times Carlin uses sentence fragments, which I'm not crazy about, and he does tend to go on at times...perhaps a more diehard Springsteen fan would have gotten more out of the long stories about various concert tours and people who helped him along the way. It was interesting to read about how Bruce made it big, gradually and with a lot of hard work and a loyal fan base in New Jersey.

Younger Bruce
One reviewer (and local New Jerseyite) wrote about how this book was book-ended by death...starting out with the childhood death of Bruce's aunt, which affected his whole family forevermore, and ending with the death of his beloved friends and bandmates Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons. Reading about Clarence's death (and Bruce bringing his guitar into the hospital room to sing Clarence out during the last 3 hours of his life) brought me to tears, as did the poignant description of how Bruce's dad asked him to sit on his lap one night (as an adult) after a lifetime of conflict and tense silence between the two of them.

With Clarence
I'm still amazed that I'm a Springsteen newbie. He stands for so much of what I believe in. From representing the common American working person to singing a song for the movie "Philadelphia," before most of Hollywood became gay friendly, from engaging with and advocating for Vietnam vets and Amnesty International, to continuing to sing about the underprivileged even after he hit it big, and for showcasing a local charity at each of his concerts...he is a strong voice of social justice.

Carlin's book does not paint him as a perfect man...he can be narcissistic, demanding and selfish. He hurt the members of his band when he cut them off for several years to pursue his solo work. He has exacting standards for everyone who works with him.

With Steve Van Zandt
But he is clearly a musical genius, prolific in his song writing and creative in his musical arrangements, and a true poet of the people.

The one thing the book was lacking was more about his family. Carlin writes about the birth of Bruce and Patti's first son, but doesn't go beyond that. I'm guessing that Bruce asked Carlin to keep his family out of the book...but it would have made this bio much more comprehensive. We hear about his initial relationship with Patti, but in later years not much.

Bruce Springsteen Pictures & Photos
With his family at the Kennedy Center Honors
Now I'm going to go listen to the albums painstakingly described in the book, and they will mean much more to me.

For fun, watch this clip of Bruce yukking it up with Jimmy Fallon, imitating Neil Young, in "I'm Sexy and I Know It."

No comments:

Post a Comment