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Born In The U.S.A by Geoffrey Himes. The Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc., (c) 2005 (pgs. 140.) ISBN: 0-8264-1661-6.

Geoffrey Himes is an honored music critic who has been writing about music for more than 28 years. This book gives us as much insight into Himes as critic, as it does Spingsteen as a creator. It is because Geoffrey himself is a creator and here lies the power and likeability of this biography. In December, 2005, Geoffrey Himes received the ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award for Pop Music Articles, along with honorees  Bob Dylan, Martin Scorsese, and others.

The book begins with this opening paragraph

Bruce Springsteen is best known for his most public acts. It’s in the concert hall – more than on the stereo or the screen – that he engages his audience as few other performers ever have. And yet, the most important moments of his career have  taken place in utter solitude. A writer’s work takes place far from an audience, and anyone seeking to understand Springsteen’s work has to investigate those solitary moments. The most important of all those moments took place in the waning weeks of 1981 as he sat alone in his house in Colt’s Neck, New Jersey, and wrote “Born in the U.S.A.”...

I have heard Springsteen’s songs, of course, but, even though I’m from Jersey, I knew nothing about his life. I often read biographies of poets and playwrights.  I guess I thought he was too different from me...in temperament, in generation, tone, coolness, (commerce.) I am happy to have read Geoff’s book because

I know, now, the Bruce Springsteen who is a narrator-- who is a musician-- not that different from any other “writer.” He fell in love with “character” and learned how to make situation, and plot. He knew film, was enraptured by all he heard and saw. And of the movies he watched, he absorbed the strongest elements: point of view, intention, motivation. He found punch lines and exit lines, and knew when to cut the treacle. To read this book is to know how an artist feels, and what ingredients are used to make a finished piece. This, I appreciate more than anything else that could have been written. Having just read 15 biographies of poets in the recent past, I was drenched with angst.

I’m no neocon – not even close - but I admit I was relieved that there is no sleaze here; no underbelly of the rock world is dredged up. Can there be a wholesome approach to the musician and the record industry?  It’s about Springsteen and so it is really about the American dream, dismantling the dream, and yet honoring it. Honesty is what we hope for in all the work we do. And if the truth can be found making a larger meaning, bigger than ourselves, that’s what keeps the next song written, the next play imagined, the next story confounded.

It is a privilege being invited into Springsteen’s passion and introspection, into his life and work. Best of all, Himes prints the “sermons” given in concert, and that is better still, for there is otherwise no way to revisit the Capital Centre or the other stadiums where Springsteen, the performer,  “testified” before he played. And of course critic Himes takes us into the music, piece by piece, decoding the chords for us.

The facts are here. Some pundits say facts are the enemy of truth. Not in this book. Himes is meticulous in his research and cataloguing. There is also a discography and bibliography in the back. This pocket size book will fit in the back pocket of your jeans, once you take that hankerchief out.

And by the way, the text is brilliantly written and as I said, is squeaky clean. I’m giving it to a teen who has had a hard time, and he also has a guitar.

Grace Cavalieri is a Poet, and Producer of “The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress."

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