Bruce Springsteen, known as "The Boss" to his fans, creates gritty scenes of American life through his songs. His ability to depict his subjects with both realism and sensitivity has won him both critical acclaim and the adoration of the public. Though his music is thoroughly American his fans span the globe. He has sold over 60 million albums in the United States and close to 120 million albums worldwide.
The Early Years
Springsteen was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, on September 23, 1949. Understanding his music comes down to understanding his New Jersey roots. The harsh economic realities of small-town New Jersey life, coupled with influences from his Catholic schooling, play out as subject material frequently in his music.
Springsteen's first gig was with a group called The Castiles, which he joined in 1965. He entered the group as a guitarist but soon began performing as lead vocalist as well. The Castiles was a short-lived project, but the band did give Springsteen a taste of playing live and touring.
Other Early Bands
In 1969, Springsteen began playing with fellow Jersey-based musician Steve Van Zandt among others. He toured up and down the east coast while also playing solo shows at smaller venues in New Jersey. As a local buzz began to grow around Springsteen, he formed a series of short-lived bands including:
- Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom
- Sundance Blues Band
- The Bruce Springsteen Band
It was The Bruce Springsteen Band that would prove to be the most important, paving the road to breakout success.
Record Deal and The E Street Band
1972 brought a record deal with Columbia Records. Springsteen was signed by John Hammond, the man who also discovered Bob Dylan. The core members of The Bruce Springsteen Band were brought into the studio, along with a few additions. This group would eventually make up Springsteen's famous E Street Band.
Over the next two years, Springsteen and the band recorded two albums:
- Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ
- The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle
These albums made Springsteen a critic's darling but didn't win him masses of music fans. Big changes were, however, just around the corner.
Born To Run
In 1975, Springsteen released Born to Run, the album that changed it all. Legal disputes with an old manager meant Born to Run was the last Springsteen album for a few years, but during that time, he toured extensively.
Born to Run didn't include any chart topping singles, but the singles, especially the title track and Thunder Road, received tons of radio play. Many of Springsteen's best-known songs came from this album.
Springsteen appeared on the covers of Time and Newsweek magazines. For a musician, one of these covers would have been an astonishing achievement, let alone both. Critics seemed to feel that Born to Run was one of those special albums, and it remains in many music critics' favorite albums lists to this day.
The Early 80s
At the start of the 1980s, Springsteen released two very different albums.
The River is, overall, an upbeat, party record. Its single, Hungry Heart, let Springsteen crack the top 10 in the charts at last.
Nebraska, a sparse acoustic record, features dark tales of American life in the heartland, including a song about spree killer Charlie Starkweather. The album sold poorly at the time, but over the long term, it has become lauded it as a low fi, poetic masterpiece.
Back to the Big Time: Born in the USA
Springsteen found his way back to the top in 1984, when he released Born in the USA. The album sold 15 million copies in the United States and spawned seven top ten singles, including what is perhaps the most misunderstood song in the history of rock music, the title track. This album also features the perennial Springsteen favorite, Dancing in the Dark.
Rocking On With Well-Received Albums
After Born in the USA, Springsteen never again achieved the mass appeal he had garnered with that album. His subsequent work has, however, sold steadily and been well received by fans and critics.
On The Rising, Springsteen struggled with his anguish in the wake of the September 11 attacks. It was his first album with the E Street Band in 18 years.
Magic and Wrecking Ball
The commercial success of The Rising was followed up with Magic and Wrecking Ball, helping to win Springsteen new legions of fans and securing his image as a rock icon.
Legendary Concert Tours
Over the course of his career, Springsteen has been celebrated for his amazing rock concerts. His shows continue to sell out stadiums and are noted not only for their high-energy and intensity but also for their extraordinary length, usually more than three hours.
Born in the USA Tour
The Born in the USA Tour was a worldwide phenomenon that rocked stadiums in North America, Europe, Australia, and Japan throughout 1984 and 1985.
The Reunion Tour saw Springsteen's reunion with the E Street Band, and together, they toured throughout 1999 and 2000, ending with a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden.
Wrecking Ball Tour
Bruce Springsteen Discography
- Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ
- The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle
- Born to Run
- Darkness on the Edge of Town
- The River
- Born in the USA
- Tunnel of Love
- Human Touch
- Lucky Town
- The Ghost of Tom Joad
- The Rising
- Devils and Dust
- We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
- Working on a Dream
- Wrecking Ball
Springsteen appears on Rolling Stone's lists for greatest singer, greatest artist, and greatest guitarist of all time, and he has won 20 Grammy Awards for his songs, albums, and performances. In 1999, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After forty years, Bruce Springsteen remains one of the most powerful and recognizable figures in music, and his biography will not have a line drawn under it any time soon.