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Considered by many critics and fans to be one of the great rock 'n' roll figures in the late 20th century, singer-songwriter-showman Bruce Springsteen created music noted for both its cinematic sweep and its deeply intimate portrayal of average people struggling in the underbelly of the American Dream. Dubbed "The Boss" - a nicknamed acquired early in his career - Springsteen was a complex and often paradoxical figure: a rock icon who defiantly eschewed the trappings of fame; a millionaire who spoke both for and to the working class. But more than the quality and depth of his music, The Boss was known for his hard-rocking, marathon concerts that featured an assemblage of his New Jersey friends in the E Street Band, including Clarence Clemons, Max Weinberg, Steve Van Zandt and Patti Scialfa, who later became Springsteen's second wife. After years of building a loyal following, Springsteen broke out with his seminal album Born To Run (1975), which stood as his best-selling record until the monstrous hit Born in the U.S.A. (1984) was released almost a decade later. Featuring some of his timeless classics, the album proved to be the apex of his popularity. Though he never again reached such astronomical...
Considered by many critics and fans to be one of the great rock 'n' roll figures in the late 20th century, singer-songwriter-showman Bruce Springsteen created music noted for both its cinematic sweep and its deeply intimate portrayal of average people struggling in the underbelly of the American Dream. Dubbed "The Boss" - a nicknamed acquired early in his career - Springsteen was a complex and often paradoxical figure: a rock icon who defiantly eschewed the trappings of fame; a millionaire who spoke both for and to the working class. But more than the quality and depth of his music, The Boss was known for his hard-rocking, marathon concerts that featured an assemblage of his New Jersey friends in the E Street Band, including Clarence Clemons, Max Weinberg, Steve Van Zandt and Patti Scialfa, who later became Springsteen's second wife. After years of building a loyal following, Springsteen broke out with his seminal album Born To Run (1975), which stood as his best-selling record until the monstrous hit Born in the U.S.A. (1984) was released almost a decade later. Featuring some of his timeless classics, the album proved to be the apex of his popularity. Though he never again reached such astronomical heights, Springsteen maintained a steady output of deeply personal albums hailed by critics and fans, while embarking on seemingly non-stop world tours, giving rise to the idea that it was Springsteen - not James Brown - who was the hardest working man in show business.
Born on Sept. 23, 1949 in Long Branch, NJ but raised in Freehold Borough, Springsteen was an introverted child raised by his father, Douglas, who worked odd jobs and as a bus driver, but was often unemployed, and his mother, Adele, a legal secretary who encouraged her son's musical ambitions by giving him a guitar as a gift when he was young. But his father was the opposite, routinely denouncing his ambitions and even hoping that his son would be drafted during the Vietnam War so that the Army would make him a man. Meanwhile, Springsteen taught himself how to play guitar as a teenager, whereupon he formed his first band, "The Rogues," as a student at Freehold Borough High School. His second band, "The Castiles," recorded two songs at a public recording studio and played assorted venues throughout the area. After graduating high school in 1967, he briefly attended Ocean County College, but dropped out. When his family moved to California in 1969, the 20-year-old Springsteen stayed behind, living on the beaches along the Jersey shore and forming several bands that played at local establishments, notably the Stone Pony in Asbury Park.
In 1971, Springsteen moved to New York and sang solo at various nightclubs. Around this time, he met personal manager Mike Appel, who arranged for an audition with Columbia Records executive John Hammond. Hammond was notably impressed with the young Springsteen. Marketed as the new Bob Dylan, Springsteen formed the nucleus of his famed E Street Band and recorded his first album, Greetings From Asbury Park (1972), which suffered from studio mixing problems. What counteracted any problems were his live concerts that had by then already achieved legendary status locally for their high-energy and marathon length. In fact, by the mid-1970s, Springsteen had developed a reputation for being one of the most exciting live performers in the business. One of the problems the songwriter faced, however, was his material. The story-like songs he wrote were often too long for radio airplay and in the days before MTV and music videos, album sales were generally tied to hit songs that received repeated playing on AM and FM stations. His second album, The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle (1973), sold poorly, but was cited by Rolling Stone as one of the year's best.
Two years later, however, Springsteen produced the first of his many successful albums, Born to Run. In a virtually unprecedented move, Springsteen appeared on the covers of both Time and Newsweek for the week of Oct. 27, 1975. The album went on to sell over five million copies, sparking the Springsteen phenomenon in earnest. After a bitter legal dispute with Appel that lasted two years, Springsteen recorded a follow-up, Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978), which proved that his success was no fluke after reaching No. 5 on the pop charts. Springsteen had his first top ten single with "Hungry Heart," a cut from the even more successful double album The River (1980). Two years after the critically-praised acoustic record Nebraska (1982), Springsteen released the most successful recording of his career, Born in the U.S.A.. Fueled by music videos directed by the likes of Brian De Palma and strong, infectious melodies on songs like "Glory Days," "Dancing in the Dark" and the title cut, Born in the U.S.A. reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts, produced seven top ten singles and became one of the best-selling albums of all time. A top-selling world tour only solidified his status in the pantheon of rock 'n' roll.
Though tough to follow up what amounted to his most popular album, the songs on his next record, Tunnel of Love (1987), were praised by many as among Springsteen's best. The majority of the material on the album dealt with failed romance and many felt it was indicative of his own unsuccessful relationship with then-wife, actress-model Julianne Phillips - a union which angered diehard fans who felt Phillips was too posh for their blue collar hero. After dissolving the E Street band in 1989, divorcing Phillips that same year and later marrying back-up singer and Jersey girl Patti Scialfa in 1991, Springsteen simultaneously released two albums, Lucky Town (1992) and Human Touch (1992). For the first time, both critics and fans were less-than-effusive with their praise. His subsequent effort, "The Ghost of Tom Joad" (1995), also contained downbeat material that failed to attract his former popularity. Meanwhile, Springsteen made the move to other mediums, appearing as himself in the politically-charged "No Nukes" (1980). While he has been approached to act in films, he chose to only appear in concert films like "Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll!" (1987) and music videos. He did, however, routinely allow his songs to be used in such features as "Light of Day" (1987), "Roger & Me" (1989) and "Thunderheart" (1992).
In 1993, director Jonathan Demme approached the rocker about providing a song for his film about a lawyer with AIDS. Springsteen responded with the haunting, low-key "Streets of Philadelphia" and earned a Golden Globe, Oscar and several Grammys for his effort. He also contributed original songs to Sean Penn's second directorial effort, "The Crossing Guard" (1995), as well as the Penn-starring vehicle "Dead Man Walking" (1995). For the latter, Springsteen was again nominated for an Academy Award. After releasing The Ghost of Tom Joad, which earned him a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album, Springsteen settled in New Jersey with Scialfa and their family, where they spent the next few years flying under the radar. By 1999, the E Street Band had reformed with a year-long reunion tour that ended with a sold out 10-show run at Madison Square Garden in 2000. Two years later, Springsteen released The Rising (2002), his first full studio effort with the band since the mid-1980s. Inspired by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, The Rising was a critical and commercial triumph, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard charts and earning a 2003 Grammy Award for Best Rock Album.
Springsteen and the E Street Band spent the better part of 2002-03 touring in support of The Rising, including an unprecedented 10-night run at Giants Stadium, a venue long associated with The Boss. In 2004, Springsteen delved head-first into politics, joining the likes of the Dixie Chicks, John Mellancamp, the Dave Matthews Band and others on the Vote for Change tour. Previously, Springsteen was reluctant to enter into political discourse; in fact, he refused to jump into the fray when President Ronald Reagan and candidate Walter Mondale publicly sparred over the Republican's misguided endorsement of "Born in the U.S.A." during the 1984 presidential campaign. But as he grew older and more comfortable in his opinions, Springsteen made his politics - unsurprisingly liberal - known. Meanwhile, he released the low-key Devils & Dust (2005) without the E Street Band, following up with We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Session (2006), which featured a large ensemble.
After reuniting with his E Street Band on the album Magic (2007), Springsteen released Working On a Dream (2009) on the heels of President Barack Obama's inauguration. Springsteen vigorously campaigned for the candidate, including at an Ohio rally two days before the 2008 election - much like he had done for Democratic nominee John Kerry four years prior. The album featured the bonus track, "The Wrestler," which was featured in Darren Aronofsky's film of the same name. Springsteen earned a Golden Globe for the song, but was surprisingly shut out of Oscar contention. Meanwhile, he performed a raucous four-song halftime show at Super Bowl XLII with the E Street Band that included "Glory Days," "Born to Run" and a crotch-slide into one of the NBC cameramen.
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Springsteen's songs have formed the basis for both of Sean Penn's feature films, "The Indian Runner" and "The Crossing Guard".
In 1997, he was one of two recipients of the Polar Music Prize (worth $133,000) presented by the King of Sweden.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.
"I didn't want to get caught up in making a record by the rules, where you have a single and a video. I wanted my freedom. I've enjoyed making more mainstream records, but that's not where I am now. The music means a lot to me. I feel a tremendous sense of purpose, the deepest I've felt in a decade." --Springsteen in USA TODAY, December 1, 1995
"Underneath all the messages, Springsten is sending an odd, barely audible little SOS of his own. In recent years something has been missing from his music, and he wants it back very badly: relevance. Not just social relevance, but relevance to his audience, relevance to himself." --From "Heart of Darkness" by Karen Schoemer in NEWSWEEK, April 1, 1996
"I had very high goals for my band when we started. . . . We didn't go out just to make music., we went out to make ESSENTIAL music. It was fun and entertaining and hopefully enjoyable, but at the core there was something serious and essential that tied into the experience of living in America. I think the criticism of some records I made in the late 80s and 90s centered around that idea." --Springsteen quoted in "Heart of Darkness" by Keren Schoemer, NEWSWEEK, April 1, 1996
"I always saw myself as the kid who got the guitar and was going to play it and pass it on to somebody else. I always saw a lot of myself in my audience." --Springsteen quoted in THE ADVOCATE, April 2, 1996
Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1999.
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