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Bruce Springsteen

American Poet and Prophet

Donald L. Deardorff II

Tempo: A Scarecrow Press Music Series on Rock, Pop, and Culture offers titles that explore rock and popular music through the lens of social and cultural history, revealing the dynamic relationship between musicians, music, and their milieu. Like other major art forms, rock and pop music comment on their cultural, political, and even economic situation, reflecting technological advances, psychological concerns, religious feelings, and artistic trends of the times. Like other major musical artists, Bruce Springsteen’s work has reflected, revealed, and reacted to modern American realities over the course of his forty-year career.

Since releasing his first record in 1973, Springsteen has sold more than a hundred million albums worldwide, played thousands of concerts, and won Grammy, Golden Globe, Emmy, and Academy awards. More importantly, however, he is one of the few twentieth-century singer-songwriters to serve as the voice of his generation, a defining artist whose works reflect the values, dreams, and concerns of many Americans. In
Bruce Springsteen: American Poet and Prophet, Donald L. Deardorff II explores the works of “The Boss,” defining the exact nature of Springsteen’s cultural influence.

With the release of seventeen studio albums, Springsteen’s influence and popularity spans multiple generations. Deardorff classifies and explains Springsteen’s remarkable reception as it evolved from small beginnings in the Jersey shore bars of the 1970s to worldwide fame today. This book thoughtfully considers the trenchant commentary Springsteen’s albums make on the mythology of the American Dream, working-class concerns, the changing character of American masculinity, the relationship between Americans and their government, the importance of social justice, and the evocation of an American spirit.

Bruce Springsteen: American Poet and Prophet will appeal to more than just Springsteen fans. It describes Springsteen as an apt critic of his own culture, whose music paints literary portraits that uncover the realities of an American society constantly evolving, while striving toward its own betterment.
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Scarecrow Press
Pages: 218Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-0-8108-8426-7 • Hardback • December 2013 • $44.00 • (£29.95)
978-0-8108-8427-4 • eBook • December 2013 • $41.00 • (£27.95)
Donald L. Deardorff II has taught courses in American literature and literary criticism at Cedarville University in Ohio since 1996. He is the author of several books on American masculinity and sports in American culture.
Much like many of the artists who inspired him (Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger), Springsteen is not only viewed as a musician but also a 'poet for his times.' Deardorff, after quickly covering Springsteen’s life story, explores the evolution of the major themes in the Boss’s music, from feelings of exile, working-class struggles, and romantic explorations to government corruption, social justice, and redemption. A professor of American literature and criticism, Deardorff brings an academic style to not only the prose ('This questioning should lead to active protest, which can lift the veil of false consciousness'), but also to the dissection of lyrics in songs such as 'Blinded by the Light.' Deardorff’s last chapter, however, offers an interesting take on artists who have been influenced by Springsteen (Lady Gaga, Arcade Fire), which is not only a fitting coda to an exploration of Bruce’s cultural influence but also a solid primer for fans looking to glimpse the future of rock ’n’ roll.
Publishers Weekly

Donald L. Deardorff II reminds us of the artist’s crucial significance in Bruce Springsteen: American Poet and Prophet, an engaging new study of the iconic rock star’s impact on American culture. In the pages of Deardorff’s accessibly written book, Springsteen’s music is taken seriously and given a thoughtful. . . analysis, and it’s a welcome introduction to Springsteen’s cultural relevance. ... Bruce Springsteen: American Poet and Prophet is an ambitious undertaking, as it attempts to weave American history, popular culture, and Springsteen’s popular music into a cohesive narrative. Each chapter situates Springsteen’s music within the specific time period in which he worked, implying that Springsteen’s music was influenced by American culture and in turn, Springsteen refracted this culture through his personal lens, thereby making meaning for millions of downhearted Americans. Complete with an historical timeline and suggestions for further reading and listening, Deardorff’s study is a useful resource for those who want to understand Springsteen’s significance more deeply.

Bruce Springsteen: American Poet and Prophet fulfills its promise to deliver a text examining Springsteen’s creative spirit. Familiarity with the Boss is not required to see how one of America’s greatest rock musicians told the story of so many souls after the 1960s—the poor, the destitute, the forgotten—and the author provides an excellent foundation upon which readers may build their own ideas of the man in the white tee and jeans. Deardorff’s conception conveys Springsteen, members past and present from the E Street Band, and a decades long career of American rock and roll in such a way that only a scholar of American literature can. Readers are sure to find Bruce Springsteen: American Poet and Prophet a valuable text for any library.
Journal of American Culture

Bruce Springsteen: American Poet and Prophet [is] a thoughtful and trenchant, and would be a perfect introduction to Springsteen’s themes. ... [This is] a well-executed and comprehensive timeline of Bruce’s career. ... Deardorff’s painstaking thematic arguments for the significance of Springsteen’s work make the book an overall success — he even makes a convincing case for Springsteen as a spiritual leader. ... If I was teaching a Springsteen course, I’d likely use American Poet and Prophet as my main text.
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