One of the secrets to Bruce Springsteen’s enduring popularity over the past fifty years is the way fans feel a deep personal connection to his work. Yet even as the connection often stays grounded in details from his New Jersey upbringing, Springsteen’s music references a rich array of personalities from John Steinbeck to Amadou Diallo and beyond, inspiring fans to seek out and connect with a whole world’s worth of art, literature, and life stories.
In this blend of memoir and musical analysis, John Massaro reflects on his experiences as a lifelong fan of The Boss and one of the first professors to design a college course on Springsteen’s work. Focusing on five of the Jersey rocker’s main themes—love, masculinity, sports, politics, and the power of music—he shows how they are represented in Springsteen’s lyrics and shares stories from his own life that powerfully resonate with those lyrics. Meanwhile, paying tribute to Springsteen’s inclusive vision, he draws connections among figures as seemingly disparate as James Joyce, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Thomas Aquinas, Bobby Darin, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Shades of Springsteen offers a deeply personal take on the musical and cultural legacies of an American icon.
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