Seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert for the first time stunned Clive Davis, Columbia Records president. “He was the best live performer I’d ever seen in my life,” Davis said.
A book about Bruce is never going to be as good as a concert, and that’s the only problem with this high-voltage biography: Its lively prose just can’t match the vitality of the Boss’ musical genius when he’s in full throttle on stage and channeling energy from dimensions that haven’t been discovered yet.
But give credit to Peter Ames Carlin, a senior writer for People and a best-selling author of books about the Beach Boys and Paul McCartney, for trying his hardest. After all, as Springsteen’s manager, Mike Appel, once crowed some 40 years ago, “Bruce Springsteen isn’t a rock ’n’ roll act, he’s a religion!” Carlin’s Bruce isn’t just preaching to the converted.
He will make a believer of the most jaded skeptic. He’s tracked down Springsteen’s aunts, his first bandmates, even his English teacher. Carlin turns the creative torture that Springsteen went through to get his first record produced into a nail-biter (even though everyone with an FM radio knows that it all worked out).
Along the way, the author breathes new life into songs we’ve heard a gazillion times by now, so they sound as fresh as a new summer day on the Jersey shore. And he sheds some much needed-insight into Springsteen’s roots, as reflected by his dad’s darkness and his mom’s light. Bruce may not be as wild as Keith Richards’ recent memoir, but it can really take you for a great ride.