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Bruce    by Peter Ames Carlin order for
by Peter Ames Carlin
Order:  USA  Can
Touchstone, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Carrol Wolverton

Resurgence of a Musical Genius ...

Pretty much every detail of Bruce Springsteen's life trails through this biography, sometimes in excruciating detail, but there is no question that he is a true musical genius. If you had any connection to Bruce's life or career, your name is probably in here. He made the usual mistakes of trusting early managers but had the advantage of not succumbing to drugs, smoking, or alcohol. And, of course, there was his overwhelming talent and love of music.

Unaffected by bullies at school, he hated formal schooling, particularly the Catholic version. He was not, nor is a man for rules. He was very affected, however, by his father's untreated mental illness. Douglas Springsteen would sit for hours in his darkened kitchen staring, and doing nothing at all. Sometimes Bruce would sit with him. This book mentions the early death of his young sister, Virginia, both early and late in the book. She was struck down while riding her tricycle, and this tragedy clouded the whole family situation.

Though blue collar musician to the core, Bruce was drawn to the American literature he was taught in his hated schooling, with the novels and poetry evolving into his music. He loved Steinbeck, and tales of the downtrodden that so often populate his lyrics.

This biography was probably commissioned because of Bruce's successful attempt to access a new generation of fans, and his genius remains unquestioned. It's his character that I find suspect. As a musician, he sees no problem with raw sexuality on stage and celebrates such. At a concert back at his old Catholic school auditorium, he discussed sex acts openly, to the disgust of the attending priest who walked out. Why do this? For effect? To get back at the Catholics for their restrictive ways? Maybe, like Bill Clinton, just because he could.

Finally, in recent years Bruce has gone into therapy and on anti-depressants to deal with mood shifts. Though obviously not as ill as his father, Bruce has dealt for years with unpredictability and mood issues. Perhaps he has harnessed the demons. Fortunately, times have changed sufficiently to where we no longer lock away, hide, or hush-up mental health issues. Bruce likes causes. I would encourage him to embrace the cause of mental health treatment along with the legions he has helped otherwise. He still has much to share, as this book makes clear.

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