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Runaway Dream Born to Run and Bruce Springsteen's American Vision

Louis P. Masur

Bloomsbury Press




256 Pages


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To millions of listeners, Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run is much more than a rock-and-roll album—it's an explosion of freedom and frustration. It confirmed Springsteen's status as a quintessential American performer. Runaway Dream chronicles the making of the album that launched Springsteen and his E Street Band into the firmament of American art, deftly sketching the ambition, history, and personalities that combined to create the enduring Born to Run.

Springsteen wanted Born to Run to be the greatest rock record ever made. For a musician with just two modest-selling LPs to his credit, it was an extraordinary ambition, and session by session, track by track, Masur shows just how much grit, as well as genius, went into realizing it. Runaway Dream offers an expert tour of the trials and triumphs of Springsteen's work. In addition to the story of the album itself, Masur places Born to Run within American cultural history, showing why the album still resonates in our lives, even for listeners born years after its release.


Praise for Runaway Dream

"Masur, as his title suggests, has ‘an affinity for the American themes that permeate [Springsteen's] work,' and his book is essentially an extended cultural essay about those."—Chicago Tribune

"A cultural historian with a penchant for choosing specific subjects (the year 1831, baseball's first world series, a famous photograph from the Boston busing crisis of the 1970s) and situating them against the larger background of their times, [Lou Masur] combines scholarly rigor and journalistic accessibility. These talents are vividly on display in Runaway Dream, which uses Born to Run as a synecdoche for understanding Springsteen's career as a whole."—Jim Cullen, History News Network

"Students of popular music who know little if anything about Springsteen will find much to appreciate here, as will also, of course, Springsteen's many fans."—Booklist (starred)

"Well-thought-out . . . After briefly examining Springsteen's early life and work, Masur details the painstaking making of the album, analyzes each song's lyrics and musicality, discusses the album's reception and what he refers to as its spatial and temporal ‘geography,' and relates its impact and continued resonance."—Library Journal

"Nearly 35 years on, Bruce Springsteen's album Born to Run shows little sign of flagging popularity; National Public Radio has hailed the 1975 album, a poetic explosion of frustration and freedom, among the 100 most important musical works of the 20th century, and it has made it into the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry. Though he admits that he wants the album played at his funeral, author and American studies professor Masur (The Soiling of Old Glory) remains surprisingly objective while examining the iconic album and its effect on the New Jersey troubadour and American culture at large. Only one chapter is dedicated to the actual making of Born to Run; the rest details Springsteen's career before and after its release, critical reaction, and the album's long-smoldering influence. Although Springsteen was not interviewed, E Street Band bassist Garry Tallent provides insight into recording sessions, and Masur quotes extensively from published sources and Springsteen's own in-concert patter. Masur's knowledge runs deep, and his work often reads like a lengthy dissertation on the Boss's lyrics, key progressions, imagery and themes; Bruce's many hard-core fans will find this an immersive, thoughtful treat."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Louis P. Masur

  • Louis P . Masur is William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of American Institutions and Values at Trinity College in Hartford. Married with two children, he divides his time between Hartford and Highland Park, New Jersey. His previous books include The Soiling of Old Glory: The Story of a Photograph That Shocked America, 1831: Year of Eclipse, and Autumn Glory: Baseball's First World Series.

  • Louis P. Masur