Smart and incisive, this unique book takes us through Bruce Springsteen’s life by tracing the cultural, political, and personal forces that shaped his music. Beyond his constant stylistic adaptations, Springsteen developed over the decades from expressing the voice of a guy from working-class New Jersey to writing about the larger issues facing the country, including war, class disparity, and prejudice. Marc Dolan draws on a range of new and little-known sources—including hundreds of unreleased studio recordings and bootlegs of live performances—making this an indispensable reference for avid Springsteen fans as well as those interested in learning the stories behind his music. Combining political analysis, music history, and colorful storytelling, Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock ’n’ Roll reveals how a gifted, ambitious community college dropout achieved superstardom—and spent decades refining what he wanted his music to say.
About Marc Dolan
Marc Dolan is an associate professor of English, American studies, and film studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, and at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Dolan eschews original research in this uncomfortable hybrid of biography and criticism. The rocker’s life has been scrutinized in previous bios by Dave Marsh, Marc Eliot and Robert Santelli, and their work provides the structural backbone of this book. The contours of the tale will be familiar to Springsteen enthusiasts: Jersey Shore bar-band roots, early-’70s cult arrival, popular breakthrough with 1975’s Born to Run, launch to superstardom with 1984’s Born in the U.S.A., etc. Dolan analyzes the musician’s progress primarily via close, grueling readings of Springsteen’s set lists over the course of 40-plus years on stage, amply documented on bootlegs, with additional attention to the oft-protracted genesis of his albums in studio sessions and home recordings. It makes for arduous reading, and Dolan’s conclusions are often suspect. While Springsteen is undoubtedly among the hardest-working live performers in rock history, and his gigs ably combine arena-rock showmanship and a carefully cultivated intimacy and sincerity, his shows and the lengthy raps that stud them only reveal so much about his internal impulses. The author goes to laborious lengths to calibrate minute differences in Springsteen’s shows over the course of individual tours. He also makes a great deal of the slow development of Springsteen’s political and social consciousness, but most of his divinations are based on contorted explications of his concerts and their attendant spiels. Dolan exhibits a frustrating inability to plumb Springsteen’s interior emotional makeup; as in previous tomes, his short-lived marriage to Julianne Phillips and his unexpected metamorphosis into midlife family man with Patti Scialfa remain mystifying. – Kirkus Reviews
‘Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock ’n’ Roll,’ by Marc Dolan
The Washington Post Book Review – June 22, 2012 (Excerpt)
Bruce Springsteen was overvalued for so long that a reaction set in, and he is now on the verge of becoming undervalued.
His concerts still sell out — even those who never liked his records concede that he puts on an exhilarating live show — but he seems passe to younger listeners, an essential test of musical longevity. The indie bands that have fashioned their styles from the works of Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, Lou Reed, Fleetwood Mac — even the small catalogue of Nick Drake — show little sign of adding Springsteen to their pantheon.
Which is a shame, for there is much to admire in the Springsteen canon, if one knows where to look. Even the over-produced, pseudo-operatic behemoths from his most popular years — the albums between “Born to Run” (1975) and “Born in the USA” (1984) have generally not worn well — contain music cut from the heart. What song has captured the aching desperation of an inability to rescue a beloved, dissolute old friend so well as “Point Blank”? And “Racing in the Street” is a tender and enduring epitaph for the one-time local big shot who knows that his era is over but who will never quite cross the city line.
Marc Dolan’s smart new critical biography, “Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock ’n’ Roll,” comes along at a propitious time. The author, a professor at City University of New York, knows the music, the milieu and enough about the man to present a balanced portrait of a brash, gifted kid from Freehold, N.J., who went from making $750 for three weekend shows at a Dupont Circle bar in 1973 to the covers of Time and Newsweek — simultaneously — two years later. [Read the full article...]
THE BLEEDING HILLS A Novel by Wilfried F. Voss
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith. - 2 Timothy iv. 7
The Irish War is officially a part of history, but not for Finnean Whelan, an IRA veteran of almost 40 years. British Intelligence has produced evidence that he is the mastermind behind a conspiracy to assassinate the First Minister of Northern Ireland. For Whelan this is not only a mission of revenge, but marks the beginning of a journey into the past and the return to the one true love: Ireland. [More...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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