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Kickin' Out The Jams, Big Time: Dave Marsh's Later Writing Finally Gets The Anthology It Deserves

Updated: Oct 12, 2023

September 28, 2023

Last month Simon & Schuster published a new anthology of Dave Marsh's writing entitled Kick Out The Jams: Jibes, Barbs, Tributes, and Rallying Cries from 35 Years of Music Writing. It is highly recommended reading for Springsteen fans, as is the book to which Kick Out The Jams very much serves as a sequel: 1985's Random House anthology Fortunate Son: The Best of Dave Marsh, now out of print and somewhat difficult to find.

(And no, unfortunately Fortunate Son remains officially unavailable to read in e-book form, despite Amazon continuing to claim otherwise.) Both books contain much significant Springsteen-related material, properly placing Bruce's work in the context of its importance within the larger spectrum of popular music.

Dave Marsh is well-known, of course, to several generations of Springsteen fans as the author of two essential Springsteen biographies that later were collected as one large, enhanced volume entitled Two Hearts: The Definitive Biography, 1972-2003. The original 1979 edition of Dave's initial Springsteen bio, Born To Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story, set the template for pretty much every possible approach to writing about Springsteen and his career that would follow, as it included not only facts and critical analysis mixed with a great collection of photos, but also closed with an appendix that included listings of all known songs that Bruce had written by that point, all songs written by others that Springsteen had covered in concert, and all known live-performance dates from 1972 through 1978.

Marsh wrote about Springsteen's career with the benefit of an insider's perspective. Dave was a close friend and colleague of music-writer-turned-producer-and-longtime-Springsteen-manager Jon Landau. (Marsh edited Landau's famous 1974 "I saw rock and roll future" essay.) He also is married to former longtime Springsteen co-manager Barbara Carr. Yet his books, articles, and commentary on Springsteen always have offered far more than just so much inside baseball. Dave always wrote and spoke from the not-necessarily-contradictory perspective of a music-critic who also was a bona-fide fan of the music, and stayed focused on the bigger picture of the meaning and importance to be found in what Bruce and his collaborators were doing, as well as how the audience was affected and responded. In later years, Marsh went on to write a third book focused on Springsteen: the highly recommended coffee-table book Bruce Springsteen On Tour: 1968-2005, published by Bloomsbury in 2006 and, though now officially out of print, still available via many booksellers. Around that same time, he served as a key programming-team member and on-air personality in launching, sustaining, and expanding E Street Radio.

Dave with SOME of the books he's written and/or edited, in a photo posted at the LAND OF HOPE AND DREAMS: A CELEBRATION OF DAVE MARSH'S WORK AND VISION Facebook page

Dave recently retired, but in his long career that stretched from the late 1960s through the first two decades of the twenty-first century, he has written and spoken passionately and brilliantly about many more aspects of music and culture than just the work of Bruce Springsteen. (The mere listing of Marsh's books at the beginning of the Kick Out The Jams anthology is staggering in and of itself.) In fact, the Kick Out The Jams anthology makes it clearer than ever why Dave Marsh should become widely recognized as one of our greatest and most insightful writers on popular music and the roles it has played - and can continue to play - in reflecting and supporting our struggles for a saner, safer, and more equitable planet.

Accompanying the arrival of the new Kick Out The Jams anthology is a free, live online event happening this coming weekend entitled Kick Out The Jams: Music Writing Like Our Lives Depend On It. Music-writer and scholar Lauren Onkey, who wrote the introduction to Kick Out The Jams, will lead a conversation with the anthology's co-editors, Daniel Wolff and Danny Alexander, and other special guests. The conversation, accompanied by some musical performances, will be centered around the work of Dave Marsh and how it fits into our larger collective history, looking back and moving forward.

In recognition and celebration of the publication of this major new anthology of Dave Marsh's writing, and this weekend's in-depth online exploration of its continued importance, here below is MUCH more on Marsh from some well-known folks, including some of Letters To You's contributors and friends. As Dave's longtime Detroit brethren in The MC5 famously exclaimed, "Kick out the jams, motherfuckers!"

Dave and Bruce in 2015 - photo from The Kristen Ann Carr Fund's Facebook page

“I connected to Dave because I knew he felt about music the way I felt about it. It was life-sustaining... It was central to your existence.”

- Bruce Springsteen

Dave Marsh and Barbara Carr as seen in Thom Zimny's film BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND: THE LEGENDARY 1979 NO NUKES CONCERTS

-excerpted from Danny’s essay “’Kick Out the Jams’ and the Debt I Owe,” the full version of which you can read at Danny’s Take ‘Em As They Come blog by clicking here.

A MARSH MEMORY FROM E STREET RADIO AND SIRIUS/XM PERSONALITY/PRODUCER JIM ROTOLO, WHO WAS DAVE MARSH’S SOLE PRODUCER AND REGULAR ON-AIR COMPANION FOR HIS ENTIRE SIRIUS/XM RUN: In 2004, I was a [radio] producer. I was working for a different company at the time, and I’d been dying to get to Sirius Radio. Steve Leeds [former Vice-President of Talent and Industry Affairs at the then-fledgling satellite-radio company] had told Dave that he should be on the radio, with his legacy of interviews, writing, and journalism. So they gave Dave a show [Kick Out The Jams with Dave Marsh,] and by chance, the channel director at the time put us together.

(L-R:) Jim Rotolo, Thom Zimny, and Dave Marsh @ SiriusXM Studios, NYC, 2018 - photo by Vinny Usuriello

And of course I already knew of Dave; I remember reading some of his articles and his reviews. I remember being upset with him because he gave the second Black Crowes album a bad review. But along the way, I’ve always found it so amazing how he always could see and show people how music has such a profound effect on everything around us: society, culture, why we are the way we are. I’m looking at the first piece in the anthology, where he linked The New Deal to Elvis and rock-and-roll. Who does that?! Being with Dave has been the best music-history class you could ever possibly have, and I’ve learned so much about culture and society and people, through music and meeting all of these great musicians and fellow writers along the way. I’m blown away by the education. You couldn’t put a price on what I was taught just being around Dave, sitting there having lunch with him, the stories and the conversation, and the way he looks at different things.

And below you can watch a special promo-video created for the Kick Out The Jams anthology, featuring a few familiar friends of Dave; edited by Samuel Shapiro, with music by Lorenzo Wolff:

Click the arrow on the left to expand and read Letters To You contributor Andrea Dyche's report from last month's Kick Out The Jams book-publication celebration in Kansas City, MO.


A world where everybody has a place to live and nobody has to stay up at night trying to figure out how to pay for it. Same with food. Same with education.

A world where health care is dispensed rationally, not to the highest bidder.

A world where everyone has some kind of productive work, everybody shares in the scut work at some level and nobody capable has to or gets to not have a job.

A world where being child-centered is something more than rhetoric, where no child is left behind because no child is pushed forward by circumstances of birth.

A world where decisions about important things (not just who's going to decide about the important things) are made by a broad, educated consensus.

A world where a major goal is to keep technology, resources and the environment in balance.

A world where everybody is free to exhibit their differences so long as the aim is not harming others.

A world where the consequences of misbehavior are the same for everybody—and so are the incentives for misbehavior.

A world where creativity is nurtured, inquiry is supported and encouraged, and rules are made to be broken but only with care.

A world where there is peace, and when there can't be, nobody makes a profit or gets to bully others as a result of it.

This is a world that would require tremendous gains in education; rather than the liberal “nanny state” it requires the utmost in personal accountability: a world where the government serves but doesn't control. A world where freedom is more than an abstraction.

Do I believe there are ways to accomplish this? Absolutely. Every bit of it, and as I say, more that I can’t even imagine right now. Because with freedom, as with everything else, quantity changes quality.

Do I think that this stuff is easily realizable? From the top down, sort of--meaning, I think we could almost overnight solve the problems of homelessness, hunger and lack of education and training. I think it would take a great deal more time before peace could be achieved—for one thing, the real capitalists, the guys that own the guys that loaned your restaurant owner the money to start his joint, would rather die. (I think.) For another, we all think in ways that are pointlessly competitive, uncooperative, selfish in all the wrong ways. ALL of us do this, to some degree, and really, it can hardly be helped—we have never lived in a world where a lot of advantage didn't accrue to competitiveness and selfishness didn't confer great advantages. For a third, we need to develop our sense of each other as worthy of trust and respect.

Andrew Vachss wrote a book about child abuse that has my favorite title, I think ever, for anything. It is called Another Chance to Get It Right. What Andrew means is, every child is another chance to get it right, to raise a human free of the burdens predatory adults bring with them. But you know, we humans as a species are children for an extremely long time—far longer than any other animal on Earth. It may well be that we are always children, in some respects. And that is a good thing. Because the quality that, all children, except for those seriously impaired, possess is the ability to learn. In fact, the quality that almost all children possess before this ruthless world begins its extremely strenuous effort to dissuade them is the DESIRE to learn.

As adults, we lose that quality at our peril. Because we lose the chance to get OURSELVES right. I'd die to create a world where that chance came home more often. But I'd rather live for it.

- Email to Stratlist online group, 8/15/03


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