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Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock 'n' Roll Paperback – 26 Apr 2013

3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Updated edition (26 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039334584X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393345841
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 3.6 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 359,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


" other singer-songwriter still active in the 21st Century has spawned as many academic studies as The Boss, and Dolan's book is among the very best...the author's examination of an extraordinary body of work is as clear-headed and accessible as the music itself." Record Collector "Those who are interested in the shaping of an American icon - and, more significantly, the creation of some lasting American music - may be directed safely to this book." The Washington Post "This is an addictive book...It twists so fine through one of rock'n'roll's most fascinating stories." Classic Rock Magazine "Springsteen is probably the distillation of all that is best about American music rolled into one great artist, and in this book Marc Dolan goes into immense detail to prove it." Irish Independent "Dolan does a good job of telling the story of his [Bruce Springsteen's] continuing relevance..." Belfast Telegraph "...meticulously detailed biography..." The Daily Record "Riveting...The best book on Bruce ever written!" --Douglas Brinkley

About the Author

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.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having recently read all three of the current Springsteen biographies, this stands out as the pick. While not as obsessively detailed as Clinton Heylin's effort, nor as rich in personal anecdotes as the Carlin book, Marc Dolan strikes the best balance. His analysis of the social and political environment of Springsteen's work is often surprising in how effectively it places the songs into context; the discussion of the relative value of unreleased and alternative songs is thoughtful; and above all, the story he tells of Springsteen's career is well-reasoned and almost error-free. It doesn't get bogged down in chasing all the "what might have been" alternatives but focuses on the work, and Springsteen's personal reaction to both internal and external situations. It's a great read and substantiates the high regard for Springtseen's acclaimed 40-year career. If you're onlu going to buy one Bruce books, this is the one to get.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I reaally enjoyed reading this. Lots of information and interesting theories about Springsteen's work. I'ts a shame though it doesn't include any views on the latest record.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My husband is a massive Springsteen fan so I thought this would be perfect for his birthday but unfortunately he says it's written in such a boring style it sends him to sleep!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I like the book, but a bit too much detail for me.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars 32 reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Brilliant Biography of Springsteen and Study of American Culture 1 July 2012
By Elizabeth Boyd - Published on
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. 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.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a fine addition to the Springsteen literary canon 1 July 2012
By M J Heilbron Jr. - Published on
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. The thin coverage of "Working On A Dream" felt more like it was secondary to the fact he didn't like the record, than to the fact that perhaps it overall was a critical and popular yawn. It's like he didn't want to say anything bad.

I loved the fact that he stated that the title song was "almost certainly the weakest title song of any Springsteen album"...I happen to agree with that opinion.
Also, the book ends with a tale about "Surprise Surprise", a song "many fans held in even lower esteem than 'The Angel'" and the author describes it as seeming "disposable, juvenile and almost meaningless."
Again, right on.
But these sort of books are supposed to present events of a career in context, and a few times along the way, almost as if he was skirting around a delicate issue, he doesn't.

Overall, though, this is a great read. I'm quibbling, because, well, I'm trying to be "objective". Honest.

And honestly, the majority of this book DOES put his career into context! It tells how the albums fit into his personal history, the current events of the period, and how they reflect back on musical influences both historic and modern popular tastes. The tours each get a few pages, but these feel like more of a tease than a tale.

Perhaps it's not Mr. Dolan's fault that maybe I simply wanted MORE.
That's a compliment.

There are other things that simply aren't his fault.

Springsteen has been putting out music like a man possessed as of late, and the book is woefully outdated on the day it was released.

New "Wrecking Ball", new tour...the treasure trove of music that was the recent "Darkness-The Promise" box set...I'm sure will be addressed in the paperback.
In fact, that will inevitably make this book better because there's already a terrific passage about the original "Wrecking Ball" song performance at Giants Stadium, and there's already LOTS of stuff on "The Promise" (the song) and the other songs that comprise 'The Promise' (the album) that will all come full circle now.

Hopefully THAT edition will then be out of date, because Bruce will have yet another album? Tracks 2? The River box set? Anyone? Is this mike on?

We can only hope.

And I think the author hopes so as well.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The author lets Bruce Springsteen's work speak for itself 18 Sept. 2012
By Smart Cookie - Published on
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.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bruce in the Bigger Picture 5 July 2012
By Franx - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book reads indeed like being in a classroom. As pointed out above. It is written from a more academic point of view putting Bruce, his albums, songs and lyrics as well as his life into a thematic context. One that is mostly historic, economic, social and musical. It does make reference to the personal and biographical milestones. As a matter of fact it demonstrates the personal and artistic path and growth Springsteen has undertaken. As such it is also about Bruces history and above all development as a human being as well as an artist. We don't learn much about the band, the managers, record labels, the studio sessions or the tours. Other books (Dave Marsh) have captured this. But if you want to know how Bruce fits into the bigger picture, this is a book for you. I mostly enjoyed the coverage over the last 2 decades since Lucky Town and Human Touch including GOTJ, Seeger Sessions and DnD. These periods have not been looked at before. It tells us how Bruce was able to sustain and manage his career since the meteoric rise up to Born in the USA. Few solo artists have produced an extended body of work which covers 4 decades and is a tight reflection of both personal development and historic context. I learned a lot and enjoyed the kindle edition.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I very much enjoyed this biography of Bruce Springsteen 20 July 2015
By Up The Stairs - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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