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One of the secrets to Bruce Springsteen’s enduring popularity over the past fifty years is the way fans feel a deep personal connection to his work. Yet even as the connection often stays grounded in details from his New Jersey upbringing, Springsteen’s music references a rich array of personalities from John Steinbeck to Amadou Diallo and beyond, inspiring fans to seek out and connect with a whole world’s worth of art, literature, and life stories.
In this unique blend of memoir and musical analysis, John Massaro reflects on his experiences as a lifelong fan of The Boss and one of the first professors to design a college course on Springsteen’s work. Focusing on five of the Jersey rocker’s main themes—love, masculinity, sports, politics, and the power of music—he shows how they are represented in Springsteen’s lyrics and shares stories from his own life that powerfully resonate with those lyrics. Meanwhile, paying tribute to Springsteen’s inclusive vision, he draws connections among figures as seemingly disparate as James Joyce, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Thomas Aquinas, Bobby Darin, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Shades of Springsteen offers a deeply personal take on the musical and cultural legacies of an American icon.
About the Author
JOHN MASSARO writes about politics and popular culture. A Distinguished Teaching Professor at SUNY-Potsdam, he is currently retired and living in Wells, Maine. His previous books include Supremely Political: The Role of Ideology and Presidential Management in Unsuccessful Supreme Court Nominations.
"A gifted speaker and writer, John Massaro speaks very astutely to contemporary issues involving love, masculinity, and sports, connecting with both the reader and Springsteen."
— Kenneth Womack
"John Massaro writes about classic Springsteen themes––politics, love, sports, and masculinity––with insight, care, and thoughtfulness. Massaro finds meaning in the singer’s lyrics that should resonate with Springsteen fans, whether long-time admirers or those just learning about him."
— June Skinner Sawyers
"Book on The Boss published by Potsdam Professor," by Craig Thorton
First Person: Springsteen and politics, Adirondack murder mystery, ins and outs of dog training - interview with John Massaro
— "First Person," North Country Public Radio (Canton, NY)
"Massaro’s work is academically sound — he’s done his research, quoting everyone from Jung to Albert Camus to Ta-Nehisi Coates, not to mention a who’s-who of Springsteen experts like Peter Ames Carlin, Eric Alterman, Marc Dolan and Andy Greene. But the book is also part memoir, with stories of Massaro’s own father and family experiences that resonate within Springsteen’s words, and vice versa. It’s a fine analysis even without them, but don’t skip those sections: If you’ve read this far, I have a feeling you’ll relate."
— Blogness on the Edge of Town
"Shades of Springsteen fits squarely into what is now a sizeable literature of Springsteen studies. The tenor of that discourse, like that of fandom generally, has a deeply personal dimension, but Massaro is part of what might be termed a strongly ethnographic cast in recent Springsteen writing....Rutgers University Press, which published Shades of Springsteen, has been at the vanguard of this trend in honoring its local son....Shades of Springsteen is a useful contribution to a vibrant, ongoing conversation."
— New Jersey Studies
"Massaro’s thesis of connective tissue in the themes of the book’s subtitle Politics, Love, Sports and Masculinity that he artfully argues drive Springsteen’s canon and best explains the songwriter’s ability to overcome his own issues of depression, is solid. He digs deep, but with an entertaining flair, explaining how all of these themes comes through in nearly every stanza of Springsteen’s songs."
— The Aquarian