Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen (born September 23, 1949) is an American singer-songwriter, known for his work with the E Street Band. Nicknamed “The Boss”.
He is widely known for his brand of poetic lyrics, Americana, working class, sometimes political sentiments centered on his native New Jersey, his distinctive voice, and his lengthy and energetic stage performances—with concerts from the 1970s to the present decade running at up to four hours in length. His artistic endeavors reflect both his personal growth and the zeitgeist of the times.
Springsteen’s recordings have included both commercially accessible rock albums and more somber folk-oriented works. His most successful studio albums, Born to Run (1975) and Born in the U.S.A. (1984) find pleasures in the struggles of daily American life. He has sold more than 120 million records worldwide and more than 64 million records in the United States, making him one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time.
He has earned numerous awards for his work, including 20 Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes, and an Academy Award as well as being inducted into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1999. In 2009, Springsteen was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient, in 2013 was named MusiCares person of the year, and in 2016 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
He married Patti Scialfa in 1991, and the couple have had three children – Evan James, Jessica Rae and Sam Ryan.
Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen was born on September 23, 1949, at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, New Jersey.
He was brought home from the hospital to Freehold Borough where he spent his childhood. He lived on South Street and attended Freehold Borough High School. His father, Douglas Frederick Springsteen, was of Dutch and Irish ancestry, and worked as a bus driver, among other vocations, although he was mostly unemployed. Springsteen said his mother, Adele Ann (née Zerilli), a legal secretary and of Italian ancestry, was the main breadwinner.
His maternal grandfather was born in Vico Equense, a town near Naples.
He has two younger sisters, Virginia and Pamela. Pamela had a brief film career, but left acting to pursue still photography full-time; she took photos for his Human Touch, Lucky Town and The Ghost of Tom Joad albums.
Springsteen’s last name is topographic and of Dutch origin, literally translating to “jumping stone” but more generally meaning a kind of stone used as a stepping stone in unpaved streets or between two houses.
The Springsteens are among the early Dutch families who settled in the colony of New Netherland in the 1600s.
Raised a Roman Catholic, Springsteen attended the St. Rose of Lima Catholic school in Freehold Borough, where he was at odds with the nuns and rejected the strictures imposed upon him, even though some of his later music reflects a Catholic ethos and includes a few rock-influenced, traditional Irish-Catholic hymns
In a 2012 interview, he explained that it was his Catholic upbringing rather than political ideology that most influenced his music. He noted in the interview that his faith had given him a “very active spiritual life”, although he joked that this “made it very difficult sexually.” He added: “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.”
In the ninth grade, Springsteen transferred to the public Freehold High School, but did not fit in there either. Former teachers have said he was a “loner, who wanted nothing more than to play his guitar.” He completed high school, but felt so uncomfortable that he skipped his own graduation ceremony. He briefly attended Ocean County College, but dropped out.
Springsteen grew up hearing fellow New Jersey singer Frank Sinatra on the radio. He became interested in being involved in music himself when, in 1956 at the age of seven, he saw Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show.
In 1964, Springsteen bought his first guitar for $18. 1964 was also an important year for Springsteen, having seen The Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Thereafter he started playing for audiences with a band called the Rogues at local venues such as the Elks Lodge in Freehold. In 1965, Springsteen’s mother took out a loan to buy her 16-year-old son a $60 Kent guitar, an act he subsequently memorialized in his song “The Wish”.
In the same year, he went to the house of Tex and Marion Vinyard, who sponsored young bands in town. They helped him become the lead guitarist and subsequently one of the lead singers of the Castiles.
His first gig with the Castiles was possibly at a trailer park on New Jersey Route 34. The Castiles recorded two original songs at a public recording studio in Brick Township and played a variety of venues, including Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village. Marion Vinyard said that she believed the young Springsteen when he promised he would make it big.
Called for conscription in the United States Armed Forces when he was 18, Springsteen failed the physical examination and did not serve in the Vietnam War. He had suffered a concussion in a motorcycle accident when he was 17, and this together with his “crazy” behavior at induction gave him a classification of 4F, which made him unacceptable for service.
In the late-1960s, Springsteen performed briefly in a power trio known as Earth, playing in clubs in New Jersey, with one major show at the Hotel Diplomat in New York City. Earth consisted of John Graham on bass, and Mike Burke on drums.
Bob Alfano was later added on organ, but was replaced for two gigs by Frank ‘Flash’ Craig.
Springsteen acquired the nickname “The Boss” during this period; when he played club gigs with a band he took on the task of collecting the band’s nightly pay and distributing it amongst his bandmates.
The nickname also reportedly sprang from games of Monopoly that Springsteen would play with other Jersey Shore musicians.
Springsteen is not fond of this nickname, due to his dislike of bosses, but seems to have since tacitly accepted it. Previously he had the nickname “Doctor”.
From 1969 through early 1971, Springsteen performed with Steel Mill (originally called Child), which included Danny Federici, Vini Lopez, Vinnie Roslin and later Steve Van Zandt and Robbin Thompson. During this time he performed regularly at venues on the Jersey Shore, in Richmond, Virginia, Nashville, Tennessee, and a set of gigs in California, quickly gathering a cult following.
San Francisco Examiner music critic Philip Elwood gave Springsteen credibility in his glowing assessment of Steel Mill: “I have never been so overwhelmed by totally unknown talent.” Elwood went on to praise their “cohesive musicality” and, in particular, singled out Springsteen as “a most impressive composer”.
His prolific songwriting ability, with “More words in some individual songs than other artists had in whole albums”, as his future record label would describe it in early publicity campaigns, brought his skill to the attention of several people who were about to change his life: new managers Mike Appel and Jim Cretecos, who in turn brought him to the attention of Columbia Records talent scout John Hammond, who auditioned Springsteen in May 1972.
Even after Springsteen gained international acclaim, his New Jersey roots showed through in his music, and he often praised “the great state of New Jersey” in his live shows. Drawing on his extensive local appeal, he has routinely sold out consecutive nights in major New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York venues. He has also made many surprise appearances at The Stone Pony and other shore nightclubs over the years.
Springsteen was signed to Columbia Records in 1972 by Clive Davis, after having initially piqued the interest of John Hammond, who had signed Bob Dylan to the same label a decade earlier.
Despite the expectations of Columbia Records’ executives that Springsteen would record an acoustic album, he brought many of his New Jersey-based colleagues into the studio with him, thus forming the E Street Band (although it would not be formally named for several months). His debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., released in January 1973, established him as a critical favorite though sales were slow.
Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams
In September 1973, Springsteen’s second album The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle was released, again to critical acclaim but no commercial success. Springsteen’s songs became grander in form and scope, with the E Street Band providing a less folksy, more R&B vibe, and the lyrics often romanticized teenage street life. ”
In the May 22, 1974 issue of Boston’s The Real Paper music critic Jon Landau wrote, after seeing a performance at the Harvard Square Theater, “I saw rock and roll future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen.
And on a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time.” Landau helped to finish the epic new album Born to Run and subsequently became Springsteen’s manager and producer. Given an enormous budget in a last-ditch effort at a commercially viable record, Springsteen became bogged down in the recording process while striving for a “Wall of Sound” production. But fed by the release of an early mix of “Born to Run” to nearly a dozen radio stations, anticipation built toward the album’s release.
On August 13, 1975, Springsteen and the E Street Band began a five-night, 10-show stand at New York’s The Bottom Line club. This attracted major media attention and was broadcast live on WNEW-FM. (Decades later, Rolling Stone magazine would name the stand as one of the 50 Moments That Changed Rock and Roll.)
Oklahoma City rock radio station WKY, in association with Carson Attractions, staged an experimental promotional event that resulted in a sold out house at the (6,000 seat) Civic Center Music Hall.
With the release of Born to Run on August 25, 1975, Springsteen finally found success. The album peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, and while reception at US top 40 radio outlets for the album’s two singles was not overwhelming.
Springsteen appeared on the covers of both Time and Newsweek in the same week, on October 27 of that year. So great did the wave of publicity become that he eventually rebelled against it during his first venture overseas, tearing down promotional posters before a concert appearance in London
By the late 1970s, Springsteen had earned a reputation in the pop world as a songwriter whose material could provide hits for other bands. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band had achieved a US No. 1 pop hit with a heavily rearranged version of Greetings’ “Blinded by the Light” in early 1977.
Patti Smith reached No. 13 with her take on Springsteen’s unreleased “Because the Night” (with revised lyrics by Smith) in 1978, while The Pointer Sisters hit No. 2 in 1979 with Springsteen’s also unreleased “Fire”. Although not a critical success, long time friend Southside Johnny recorded Springsteen’s “The Fever” in early 1976 and “Talk to Me” in 1978. The two of them along with Steve Van Zandt collaborated to produce “Trapped Again” in 1978.
In September 1979, Springsteen and the E Street Band joined the Musicians United for Safe Energy anti-nuclear power collective at Madison Square Garden for two nights, playing an abbreviated set while premiering two songs from his upcoming album.
Springsteen continued to focus on working-class life with the 20-song double album The River in 1980, which included an intentionally paradoxical range of material from good-time party rockers to emotionally intense ballads, and finally yielded his first hit Top Ten single as a performer, “Hungry Heart”.
The River was followed in 1982 by the stark solo acoustic Nebraska. Recording sessions had been held to expand on a demo tape Springsteen had made at his home on a simple, low-tech four-track tape deck. However, during the recording process Springsteen and producer Jon Landau realized the songs worked better as solo acoustic numbers than full band renditions and the original demo tape was released as the album.
Although the recordings of the E Street Band were shelved, other songs from these sessions would later be released, including “Born in the U.S.A” and “Glory Days”.
Springsteen is probably best known for his album Born in the U.S.A. (1984), which sold 15 million copies in the U.S., 30 million worldwide, and became one of the best-selling albums of all time with seven singles hitting the Top 10.
During the Born in the U.S.A. Tour, Springsteen met actress Julianne Phillips, whom he would marry in 1985. He also that year took part in the recording of the USA For Africa charity song “We Are The World”; however he declined to play at Live Aid. He later stated that he “simply did not realise how big the whole thing was going to be”.
He has since expressed regret at turning down Bob Geldof’s invitation, stating that he could have played a couple of acoustic songs had there been no slot available for a full band performance.
Springsteen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 by Bono (the lead singer of U2), a favor he returned in 2005.
In 2002, Springsteen released his first studio effort with the full band in 18 years, The Rising, produced by Brendan O’Brien. The album, mostly a reflection on the September 11 attacks, was a critical and popular success. (Many of the songs were influenced by phone conversations Springsteen had with family members of victims of the attacks who in their obituaries had mentioned how his music touched their lives.)
The title track gained airplay in several radio formats, and the record became Springsteen’s best-selling album of new material in 15 years.
At the Grammy Awards of 2003, Springsteen performed The Clash’s “London Calling” along with Elvis Costello, Dave Grohl, and E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt and No Doubt’s bassist, Tony Kanal, in tribute to Joe Strummer; Springsteen and the Clash had once been considered multiple-album-dueling rivals at the time of the double The River and the triple Sandinista!.
In 2004, Springsteen and the E Street Band participated in the Vote for Change tour, along with John Mellencamp, John Fogerty, the Dixie Chicks, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Bright Eyes, the Dave Matthews Band, Jackson Browne, and other musicians.
Devils & Dust was released on April 26, 2005, and was recorded without the E Street Band. It is a low-key, mostly acoustic album, in the same vein as Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad although with a little more instrumentation.
Some of the material was written almost 10 years earlier during, or shortly after, the Ghost of Tom Joad Tour, with a few having been performed then but not released.
In the early 1980s, Springsteen met Patti Scialfa at The Stone Pony, a bar in New Jersey where local musicians regularly perform. On that particular evening she was performing alongside one of Springsteen’s pals, Bobby Bandiera, with whom she had written “At Least We Got Shoes” for Southside Johnny. Springsteen liked her voice and after the performance, introduced himself to her. Soon after that, they started spending time together and became friends.
Early in 1984, Springsteen asked Scialfa to join the E Street Band for the upcoming Born in the U.S.A. Tour. According to the book Bruce Springsteen on Tour 1969–2005 by Dave Marsh, it looked like Springsteen and Scialfa were on the brink of becoming a couple through the first leg of the tour. But before that could happen, Barry Bell introduced Julianne Phillips to Springsteen and on May 13, 1985, they were married.
Springsteen and Scialfa lived in New Jersey, before moving to Los Angeles, where they decided to start a family.
On July 25, 1990, Scialfa gave birth to the couple’s first child, Evan James Springsteen.
On June 8, 1991, Springsteen and Scialfa married at their Los Angeles home in a very private ceremony, only attended by family and close friends.
Their second child, Jessica Rae Springsteen, was born on December 30, 1991; and their third child, Samuel Ryan Springsteen, was born on January 5, 1994.
In April 2006, Springsteen released We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.
Springsteen’s next album, titled Magic, was released on October 2, 2007. Recorded with the E Street Band, it had 10 new Springsteen songs plus “Long Walk Home”, performed once with the Sessions band, and a hidden track (the first included on a Springsteen studio release), “Terry’s Song”, a tribute to Springsteen’s long-time assistant Terry Magovern, who died on July 30, 2007.
Magic debuted at No. 1 in Ireland and the UK. Greatest Hits reentered the Irish charts at No. 57, and Live in Dublin almost cracked the top 20 in Norway again. Sirius Satellite Radio also restarted E Street Radio on September 27, 2007, in anticipation of Magic.
Radio conglomerate Clear Channel Communications was alleged to have sent an edict to its classic rock stations to not play any songs from the new album, while continuing to play older Springsteen material.
Sources: YouTube / Wikipedia
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