Bruce Springsteen (born September 23, 1949) is an American singer and songwriter, nicknamed "The Boss". He frequently recorded with The E-Street Band.
Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen was born September 23, 1949 in Freehold Borough, New Jersey. His father, Douglas, was a bus driver of Dutch ancestry and his mother, Adele Zirilli Springsteen, an Italian-American legal secretary. One of Springsteen's earliest recordings is from 1965, when he was originally the guitar player for a band called the Castiles, later becoming lead singer. He began performing in Richmond, VA in late 1969 and through 1970 with singer Robbin Thompson in a band called Steel Mill. They went on to perform some memorable shows at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Before being discovered nationally, he returned to Asbury Park, New Jersey, and performed regularly at The Stone Pony and other small Asbury Park nightclubs. His New Jersey shows quickly gathered cult-like appeal for their energy, passion and longevity, most lasting in excess of three hours.
Even after gaining international acclaim, Springsteen's New Jersey roots would reverberate in his music, with him routinely praising "the great state of New Jersey" in his live shows. Drawing on his extensive local appeal, his appearances in major New Jersey and Philadelphia venues routinely would sell out for consecutive nights and, much like the Grateful Dead, his show's song lists would vary significantly from night to night.
He began his recording career with the E Street Band in 1973. Upon signing a solo record deal with Columbia Records in 1972, Springsteen brought many of his New Jersey-based musician friends into the studio with him, many of them forming the E Street Band. His debut album, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., from January 1973 established him as a critical favorite, though sales were slow. Manfred Mann's Earth Band later turned one song from this album, "Blinded By The Light," into a number one hit. Although "Greetings" and his second album, "The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle" received critical acclaim, they failed to achieve commercial success.
In Boston's The Real Paper May 22, 1974, music critic Jon Landau wrote, "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 later became Springsteen's manager and producer). With the release of his album Born to Run in 1975, Springsteen made the covers of both Time Magazine and Newsweek the same week, on October 27 of that year. However, a legal battle with former manager Mike Appel kept Springsteen out of the studio for a while, and probably also contributed to the much more sombre tone of his 1978 album, Darkness on the Edge of Town. He continued to consolidate his thematic focus on working-class life with the double album The River in 1980 and the solo acoustic Nebraska in 1982.
Springsteen is probably best known for the multi-million selling Born in the U.S.A.(1984), and the successful world tour that followed it. The title track was a tribute to Springsteen's buddies that had experienced the Vietnam War, some of whom did not come back. The song was widely mis-interpreted on release as nationalistic. In later years Springsteen performed the song accompanied only with acoustic guitar to restore the song's original meaning.
After this commercial peak, Springsteen released the much more sedate and contemplative Tunnel of Love (1987), a mature reflection on the many faces of love found, lost and squandered. It coincided with the breakup of his first marriage to actress Julianne Phillips.
Reflecting the challenges of love, on Tunnel of Love's title song, Springsteen famously sang:
"Ought to be easy, ought to be simple enough. Man meets woman, and they fall in love. But the house is haunted, and the ride gets rough. You got to learn to live with what you can't rise above."
In 1992, after breaking up with most of the E Street Band (Roy Bittan remained), Springsteen released two albums simultaneously. Human Touch and Lucky Town were even more introspective than any of his previous work. Also different about these albums was the confidence he displayed. As opposed to his first two albums, which dreamed of happiness, and his next four, which showed him growing to fear it, these albums saw a finally satisfied and mature Springsteen.
A multiple Grammy Award winner, he also won an Academy Award in 1993 for his song "Streets of Philadelphia," which appeared in the soundtrack to the film Philadelphia. The song, along with the film, was applauded by many for its sympathetic portrayal of a gay man dying of AIDS, especially coming from a main-stream, heterosexual musician.
In 1995, after temporarily re-organizing the E Street Band for a few new songs recorded for his first Greatest Hits album (a recording session that was chronicled in the film "Blood Brothers"), he released his second solo guitar album, The Ghost of Tom Joad. In 1998, another precursor to the E Street Band's upcoming re-birth appeared in the form of a sprawling, four-disc box set of outtakes, Tracks.
In 1999, the Band officially re-united and went on an extensive world tour, lasting over a year in length and finishing with ten sold out shows at New York's Madison Square Garden. The E-United World Tour resulted in an HBO Concert, with corresponding DVD and album releases as Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band: Live In New York City.
Drawing on his strong fan base in Philadelphia, Springsteen chose to celebrate his 50th birthday in September 1999 with a live show at the Philadelphia Spectrum, which he opened with his hit "Growing Up." Closing the song on that night, he quoted W. C. Fields: "All things being equal, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."
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, and hailed the return of "The Boss". A massive tour was made to promote the album the Rising. It would come to a final conclusion with 3 nights in Shea Stadium. Bruce Springsteen lost his police escort for the second night after performing "American Skin (41 shots)" a song about the police shooting of Amadou Diallo. Bob Dylan was a surprise guest on the last night, the two performed Highway 61 Revisited together.
In 2004, Springsteen announced that he and the E Street Band would participate in a politically motivated "Vote for Change" tour, in conjunction with John Fogerty, the Dixie Chicks, R.E.M., Jurassic Five and other musicians. All were be held in swing states, to benefit MoveOn.org and encourage people to vote against George W. Bush. A finale was held in Washington D.C., bringing many of the artists together. Several days later, Springsteen had one more concert in New Jersey for Moveon.org. This led to both criticism and praise from the expected partisan sources. Springsteen's No Surrender became the main campaign theme song for John Kerry's unsuccessful Presidential campaign. In the last days of John Kerry's campaign, he performed acoustic versions of his songs at Kerry rallies, mainly No Surrender, Thunder Road and The Promised Land.
Despite his overt partisanship, however, Springsteen was forgiven by many of his Republican fans, many of whom said they found Springsteen's passion for America and personal struggle consistent with their own ideology. Springsteen thus represented one of only a few modern performers whose music was viewed as widely relevant to the politics and culture of the day.