Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin (Touchstone, $28)
Peter Ames Carlin, a New York Times bestselling author and senior writer for People Magazine, has crafted an informative and highly readable biography of one of the most important musicians of our era.
Bruce Springsteen has won twenty Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes, an Oscar, and generated more than 120 million album sales. He has been one of the most influential voices in both American music and politics. So much so, President Barack Obama recent quipped that he might be the president but Springsteen was boss.
Born in 1949, Springsteen was raised in the lower working class neighborhood of Freehold, New Jersey. When he was seven, he saw Elvis Presley perform on the Ed Sullivan Show on television and vowed that, too, would someday become a musician. He got his first guitar six years later. He played in Earth, a regional trio, where he earned the nickname “boss,” since he was the one who collected the money for the other band members following their gigs.
He auditioned for Columbia Records during the spring of 1972. It was a major turning point but as big a break as three years later when Springsteen and his E Street Band began an engagement at the Bottom Line Club in New York City. It was during that gig when he came to the attention of rock radio. The rest is —as they say — history. Even though Springsteen earned international acclaim, his appeal is that he never forgot his roots in blue collar New Jersey.
This biography is not just must reading for Springsteen fans but anyone who appreciates music. It is meticulously researched and highly readable. It is essential and a definitive insider look at one of the most complex and intriguing artists in American music.
Mick Jagger by Philip Norman (ECCO, $34.99)
Philip Norman is the author of the New York Times bestselling biography, “John Lennon: The Life.” Although it was published to a great deal of acclaim, his new book about Mick Jagger is in many ways even better.
Writing about Jagger was not an easy task. According to Norman, the rock icon is both inimitable and paradoxical. He is a supreme extrovert who prefers discretion, a supreme egotist who dislikes talking about himself, and a supreme achiever to whom his own achievements seem to mean nothing. Through five decades as the front man for the “Rolling Stones,” Jagger has overcome all odds as the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll survivor.
Norman interviewed all of the major characters, from the Stones themselves to such critical figures like Marianne Faithfull, Andrew Oldham, Robert Fraser, and the “sixth stone,” Ian Stewart. The result is a fully nuanced portrait of the decadent, rebellious and self-interested man that most fans are familiar with.
This is a biography that is crisply written and elegantly executed. Norman achieves the almost impossible by parting the curtain and showing us the real wizard, a man who is surprisingly human, vulnerable, and, yes, endearing. Without a doubt, this will be the definite biography of this almost bigger-than-life rock star.
Total Recall: My Unbelievable True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger (Simon & Schuster, $35)
The amazing thing about this autobiography is that the author does not come off more sympathetic after reading it. It documents Schwarzenegger’s life from his birth in a small Austrian town to California Governor and an emerging Republican leader. It reveals how he became one of the world’s biggest movie stars, a multi-millionaire, and the husband of Maria Shriver. The big question is how this man — who had every break and advantage — could be so clueless and stupid.
After wading through more than 600 pages, I came away with no warmth for the author but rather a sadness. How this man squandered so much, lied so often and so little effort, and allowed himself to become such a national punch line is not a pretty story.