Bruce Springsteen: His Life, Music, and Promise

Brooklyn College

Eric Alterman (Ph.D., Stanford) is a CUNY Distinguished Professor of English and Journalism at Brooklyn College. The author of eleven books, he has been a columnist for The Nation, The American Prospect, The Guardian, MSNBC and Rolling Stone, and a contributor to The New Yorker and The Atlantic. Professor Alterman has won the George Orwell Prize, the Stephen Crane Literary Award, and the Mirror Award for media criticism (twice). He is the author of It Ain’t No Sin to be Glad You’re Alive: The Promise of Bruce Springsteen, as well as many articles about Springsteen. Alterman has seen Bruce in concert over 200 times since 1977.



Bruce Springsteen’s songs are renowned for the way they tell a story. This course will tell a story, as well: of a young man from a dysfunctional family who grew up half-Irish, half-Italian, far from affluence of any kind. In fact, he once observed he didn’t even know anyone who had ever been on an airplane. Years later, he will become arguably the greatest performer in the history of rock n’ roll, a symbol of working-class America (while earning hundreds of millions of dollars), and a much sought-after endorser of presidential candidates.  We will examine Springsteen’s music and his role in America’s cultural history and attempt to find, in his inspirational story, clues to what has made him the powerful and unique cultural force he has become.



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Ira Bolnick

Great lecturer. Knowledgeable, articulate, passionate about Springsteen.

11 months ago
David W King

Great insights and helped to connect even more with Bruce’s music

11 months ago
Juanita Sevilla

Bruce Springsteen: His Life, Music, and Promise

Makes me want to read Bruce’s memoir, Alterman’s book and listen to al of Springsteen’s music!! Thank you

11 months ago
norman solomon

Not up to usual ODU standards quality

The presenter could have provided additional enthusiasm into the presentation as well more discussion and analysis of Springsteen’s creative talents. Also, while I wasn’t expecting to hear much music a 50 minute presentation on Springsteen with no music whatsoever was surprising. Finally, I found the presenter’s use of the word `weird’ especially in respect to Springsteen’s early life off putting. To me at least Springsteen’s mother sending him to live with the grandmother wasn’t `weird’ but demonstrated the lengths to which the mother was devoted to her son–which Springsteen himself acknowledges later in life. Clearly, the presenter has done a great deal of thinking /writing about Springsteen I just wish it had translated better to the presentation.

11 months ago
Sylvia Rosas

A Missed Opportunity

I can imagine that Prof. Alterman has had better lectures. I dont think I can cover all the mis-steps in this one. — some highlights:


Prof. Alterman has a heavy CV but he came to this session unprepared and disorganized. The subject is dynamic and he failed to do it justice. Images were unnecessarily repeated. The content was heavy on biographical milestones and gushing adoration. Prof. Alterman himself framed much of the problem at the start of the lecture when he described his attachment to Bruce Springsteen as “embarrassingly.” He was correct. We were given very little depth into Springsteen’s process and the pathways of his music along with several incorrect “factual” renderings.


Title for the lines read from one of BS’s early hits was Blinded by the Light.

Prof. Alterman states that no one has played to more people at one time on one place than Bruce Springsteen. This is wildly incorrect. Bruce Springsteen falls 9th on some lists and lower on others and below Frank Sinatra, Tina Turner, Paul McCartney and Rosco Vassi.

Born in the USA (a great album) was NOT the best-selling album in 1985. The best-selling album relesased in 1985 was BROTHERS IN ARMS by DIRE STRAITS which sold 30,000,000 copies. Born in the USA was three weeks at number one and spent a whole year in the top ten.

The Obama bromance got almost cringeworthy. Springsteen did not get “The Medal of Honor” from Obama. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Facts matter. And er, there was no Obama loss to Trump, that was Hillary Clinton.

And Bruce Springsteen hands down the greatest Rock n Roll performer of all time? Not even among the best? Wow.

10 months ago
Linda Sikorski

New Jersey royalty

Loved this presentation- one of my favorite One Day U’s ever. I came late to being a Springsteen fan so I appreciated all the background info.
Mr. Alterman’s admiration for Springsteen is contagious just as Bruce’s music is. I hope there is a part 2 . Rock on!

5 months ago
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