Book Review: ‘Boss: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band—The Illustrated History’

Boss by Gillian G. Gaar

Springsteen fans who want to read about the man and his music have long been able to opt for everything from biographies to books about the albums to coffee-table photo collections. Now comes Gillian G. Gaar’s Boss: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band—The Illustrated History, which attempts with considerable success to be all this and more. Think of it as a sort of one-stop print shop for Bruce aficionados.

In the volume, which spans 208 oversized pages, the veteran Seattle-based rock writer offers the basics of Springsteen’s story, starting with the birth of his difficult father and ending with the 2014 induction of his E Street Band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Gaar also delivers thoughtful reviews of Springsteen’s albums; includes an impressively thorough selected discography of singles, EPs, albums, and box sets that lists release dates, recording info, producers, musicians, and more; and features a generous assortment of color and black-and-white photos from throughout the artist’s career. Sidebars cover such topics as Springsteen’s pivotal 1975 Bottom Line gigs, his London debut, his wives, his key singles, and the life and death of E Street sax player Clarence Clemons.

Gaar offers a fair amount of detail throughout but, obviously, you don’t cover all this turf in 208 pages without cutting some corners. Those who want to dig deeper can pick up my own Springsteen on Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches, and Encounters, Peter Ames Carlin’s Bruce, or Ryan White’s Springsteen: Album by Album, all of which Gaar lists in a bibliography, along with a variety of other books, magazines, websites, and articles. (Fans can also order Bruce’s autobiography, Born to Run, which will be released on September 27.)

If you’ve already read much of this other material, you’re not likely to find many revelations in Gaar’s book. But if you’re just starting to fill your Bruce bookshelf, this would be a sensible first purchase. Boss is well-written and carefully researched, and it packs considerable insight and information into almost every page.

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