“interesting story . . . more than delivers.”
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. It is just as important to understand the history of the formative era in order to better grasp how the artist found his musical voice. This book also tells the story of blue collar America in the 1960s.
Musically, the 1960s were a study in dichotomy. On one hand, singer/songwriters like Joni Mitchell or Bob Dylan were writing politically conscious songs. On the other, the British Invasion was all about having fun and rebelling through rock.
Somehow Springsteen managed to walk in both worlds. From the beginning, The Boss was never really interested in a solo career. He wanted to front a band of strong musicians, the more the merrier. Yet as he matured as a musician and songwriter, his set lists increasingly featured original material. Dylan especially was a powerful influence.
Marc Dolan’s writing is descriptive, but not overly flowery or fan boy-ish. He is very adept at pulling the reader into his book and telling an interesting story—even if The Boss is not a mainstay on one’s iPod.
In today’s entertainment world, it is so hard to find acts that live up to all the overblown hype. Like The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock ’n’ Roll more than delivers.