If there's no formula for success, there's certainly no formula for becoming a superstar. Sure, hard work and talent are crucial but there's countless people in the world for whom even ample doses of that mixture aren't sufficient. So what elevated Bruce Springsteen to a status that may border on a voice of a generation? Peter Ames Carlin's biography of The Boss, Bruce, suggests its subject is a pastiche of traits, some good and some not.
There's some single-minded dedication. For example, while his band mates were working day jobs, Springsteen focused exclusively on music. There's more than a bit of perfectionism, enough to at times drive producers and fellow musicians to the brink. There's a seemingly endless supply of ideas and lyrics, so much so that by 1997 Springsteen had more than 350 unused songs on tape.
On the other hand, that single-minded devotion might reflect more than a little narcissism. The drive for perfection might compensate for nagging doubt and depression. And the innate ability to create might be elevated over the needs or feelings of others.
The fact Bruce isn't afraid to recognize and explores all these aspects of Springsteen takes it beyond the standard music biography. Given that Springsteen and friends cooperated in the writing of the book, it could have easily become a hagiography. It isn't and it also isn't a hatchet job. Carlin takes the time to try to assess where the the sundry bits and pieces come from. At bottom, there's little doubt they're rooted in home and family.
Taking in general a chronological approach, Carlin spends a great deal of time exploring Springsteen's youth and beginnings. We see the pedestal his grandparents were willing to place him on, as well as his interactions, or lack thereof, with a distant, drinking, and likely manic depressive father. We see the development of his talents and devotion to music but also how he wanted girlfriends who would wash his clothes, cook and keep house so he could pursue that muse. (Managers would later take over some of that role.) We see the role that being born and raised and living in New Jersey plays in him and his music. As Carlin says in relation to Springsteen's The River, the songs tend to be "snapshots of the real world as viewed through the hopes, labors, fears, joys, and struggles of the unheralded many."