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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 23 August 2014
Carlin’s biography of Springsteen is the best that I have read. I actually read it this summer together with Jeff Burger’s Springsteen on Springsteen. Together the two books gave me a lot of inspiration, new thoughts and information and a kick to go back to the albums and listen to them all over again.
Carlin’s book is well researched and obviously well informed by contacts to Bruce and all the people that have been close to his music. He is particularly good in his account Bruce’s formative years, his early bands, the recording of his first 8 albums, and – not least – his family background. And of course on his special relationship with the E-Street Band, including the ups and downs of that relationship. The coverage of the later years (after Tunnel of Love) is less detailed, more uneven. Albums like Magic and Working on a Dream get less attention in spite of the fact that Carlin is trying to faithfully follow the idea that there is a main thread in the stories that Bruce wants to tell. So Working on a Dream can’t really be discarded on the grounds of minor commercial success.
Some of the really good details in the book are the accounts of the recording of the individual albums that help to explain the different sound on e.g. Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town. Also the book throws new light on Bruce’s relationship to Mike Appel. It’s always nice to get the nuances right, and Appel is credited for propelling Bruce’s career to a whole different level. We all know that Landau has played a big role, but the book also shows that people like Toby Scott and Chuck Plotkin have been very important in Bruce’s everlasting search for just the right musical expression.
The inspiration in Bruce’s music that stems from the darker recesses of his inner life is well covered without any danger of overdoing it. In fact the whole tone and approach of the narrative is well balanced, and exactly for that reason it is very engaging.
I choose to recommend this particular biography – among the incredible mass of books on the topic – because it is convincing in its portrayal of the artist, what has inspired him, his legendary work ethics, his ongoing search for new ways of expressing himself, and also the more troubled sides to his character. And, honestly, it is refreshing to read a biographer writing in this field who is actually deeply familiar with the music.
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I picked this up cheaply in HMV earlier this year, and took it along to read on a recent trip to New Jersey. It's a well-written, comprehensive account of Springsteen's life which draws on interviews with the man himself, his band members, managers and family to produce a lifelike and memorable portrait of the man and his music. The journey has been long and eventful: from his working-class beginnings in NJ to his early explorations with a series of local bar bands, his efforts to break out that eventually resulted in an audition with John Hammond at CBS, and his subsequent career which has seen the release of two records - 1975's Born To Run and 1984's Born In The U.S.A. - which have received critical acclaim together with overwhelming commercial success. Plus the reputation he's built up as a passionate, tireless live performer.

It's an engaging story: on the whole, its subject seems to have worked hard over a long period to stay true to his art, with only a few mis-steps along the way. In spite of its heft (nearly 500 pages), the book doesn't feel over-long: a lot of interesting things happened in Springsteen's life, and they're all detailed here. Being more of a casual fan than some, I enjoyed finding out more about the man, and it's sent me back to his music for further listening. Recommended.
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on 19 October 2013
This is a very detailed and comprehensive book. Personally I found it a bit slow and a bit too-detailed for my liking. I have enjoyed Bruce Springsteen's music for over 30 years and have all his Albums. I love his music but unless you are really into the man as well as the music I would not really recommendate this one. Obsessives will love it though!
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on 1 December 2012
Excellent insight in to early Bruce years I have read many books on springsteen I thought there was nothing left to know
This book I discovered more about the boss
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on 16 November 2012
Before I start - I hold my hands up here - I'm the UK editor for this book. But check me out, I've not written an amazon review for many years, that was on a book I hadn't worked on, and I'm writing one now, not because I'm an editor, but because I'm a fan. Springsteen fans, and music fans in general, are notorious for trumpeting to the world the details of their obsession. I am no different. I first listened to Thunder Road, off the live album, when I was 14/15 years old. My friends were listening to The Thompson Twins, Deacon Blue, Simple Minds and Morrissey. I got hooked on Springsteen. Since then I've listened to everything he's ever produced, watched all the films, been to many concerts, hooked my own kids on him, and read everything there's been to read - and I just need to say that this is the best, most interesting and exciting book that's ever been written about him. Its detailed, yes, but never at the expense of telling a good and meaningful story. Its full of stories, anecdotes, memories that I'd never read about Springsteen before, and not surprisingly given that the author was given, by Springsteen himself, such great access to management, the band members (Carlin had the last interview with Clarence Clemons before he died) friends, girlfriends, and most importantly, family. The photos of Springsteen, the author found on his travels and through his interviews are unique and superb. The era Springsteen grew up in, his own obsession with music, his struggle to break through and then the rise to become perhaps America's foremost musical chronicler of his generation, are beautifully and vividly written about. As with all the best biographies, whoever the subject, at the end of the book I felt I knew the subject so much better. Its a great book, and I'm not just saying that...
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on 1 August 2013
I liked it but thought it was a little too long, found myself skimming through certain parts to get to things that interested me..
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on 4 January 2013
This is a big book! It's very interesting. I've been an unconditional Bruce fan for many years- I go to at least one of his concerts every time he does a tour. Living in Europe doesn't always make that easy! I knew nothing about Bruce's life story before reading this book. I had know idea how determined he was to succeed, nor how difficult it was to get there!
I haven't finished reading this book, but I would say it's a must for anyone who enjoys his music. I admired Bruce Springsteen for the person he is, even before I read this book. But now, even though I haven't finished, I admire him even more for his courage, his talent, and his will to help those in need. He's never forgotten where he came from and how he struggled. He's still out there to help those less fortunate. This is a tribute to a great man and a great musician!
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on 5 March 2013
I have been a huge fan since 1977 but can honestly say this is the best biography of the Boss I've read, mainly because it's one of honesty. It was a bit of a shock because after over 35 years of complete adoration there were times in this account that I didn't like the man! I now feel I have a more rounded and human understanding of Springsteen. Previously, my favourite book was 'It Ain't No Sin to be Glad You're Alive: The Promise of Bruce Springsteen' by Eric Alterman which I know is more of a fan's view so this latest is really recommended. Still, if you really want to know about Bruce, the truth is in the music!!
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on 6 August 2016
As we eagerly await Bruce Springsteen's autobiography it is worth giving this brilliant book a read. It is a very intelligent, honest portrayal of the man and gives great insight into the life a rock icon. Learnt so much more about the man and his music and the book inspired me to write my own story of my life and how Bruce Springsteen inspired me and gave me more confidence in the world. A fantastic read.
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on 27 August 2013
Springsteen asked the author to 'just be honest' in this non-endorsed book. And that he has, I felt I could trust his details without him clouding the facts with his own opinions. Like most biographies you have to trawl through some parts but it comes to life when we find out what turns him on to what he does best and how persistence, selfless and selfish hard work and talent eventually fired the career of this truly unique artist into the stratosphere. We read how he has always been true to himself and his music, rarely compromising on any aspect of his work. Stars like Bruce are few and far between and this book demonstrates what it takes for people like him to be set so far above others. I wonder if performers like Bruce Springsteen are sent by God to make life so much more interesting for the rest of us.
Many biographies/autobiographies have changed my opinion of the subject, sometimes for the worse. This unbiased book just made me wonder how someone gets to be blessed with so much talent. If you're looking for a rock biography brimming with scandalous anecdotes about sex, drugs and sexual debauchery you won't find it here. This book is straight and to the point.
I didn't give the book a five star rating as I wasn't always gripped, possibly because there's little in the way of scandal or many tales of extreme rock star behaviour but that's not a criticism. It just shows that this man has a 'realness' and honesty about him which emerges in his lyrics linked to life and American culture.
He's still a big songwriting hero to me and I feel I now know so much more about him. The facts have made be revisit my record collection track by track and link them with the times and circumstances they were written in according to this story. I would definitely recommend it to all fans. If you have admiration for the man it won't be diminished by what you read here.
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