Bruce Springsteen once said he intended to make an album with words like Bob Dylan that sounded like Phil Spector where he sang like Roy Orbison, a nifty summary of many, but not all, of his artistic ambitions and a key to his appeal. Unlike any other singer/songwriters saddled with the appellation of "the new Dylan" in the early '70s, Springsteen never hid how he was raised on '60s AM radio. He loved rock & roll, whether it was the initial blast from the '50s or the mini-symphonies from the days before the Beatles or the garage rockers that surfaced in the wake of the British Invasion, and all this could be heard within his wild, wooly collective E Street Band, a group who debuted on his second album, 1973's The Wild The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, and who would support him throughout most of his career.
The E Street Band allowed Springsteen to touch upon all of his beloved music -- rock & roll, soul, jazz -- yet he would still step outside the band to do an occasional solo project, often acoustic-oriented excursions into folk where he'd deliberately pick up the story-telling torch left behind by Woody Guthrie. Here, Springsteen turned the working class into myth but that same sense of romance was evident in his rock & roll, surfacing spectacularly on his 1975 album Born to Run. Greeted by superlative reviews along with the rare distinction of his appearing on the covers of the news magazines Time and Newsweek within the same week, Born to Run put Springsteen on the map and over the next few years he worked hard, touring regularly with the E Street Band and releasing the acclaimed, successful records Darkness on the Edge of Town and The River. What pushed Springsteen into the stratosphere was 1984's Born in the U.S.A., a record that turned into a 15-million-unit-selling phenomenon and made him a global superstar.
He had some difficulty with the fallout of fame, stepping away from the E Street Band for nearly a decade as he wandered through a series of albums of varied quality, but at the turn of the millennium, he first reunited the band for a successful tour and then found an artistic rebirth with 2002's The Rising. From that point on, Springsteen kept the E Street Band as his regular touring band and would often bring the group into the studio for such albums as 2007's Magic and 2020's Letter to You. He also stepped away from the band to pursue such adventurous projects as his autobiographical one-man show Springsteen on Broadway in 2017, the lush, cinematic 2019 album Western Stars, and Only the Strong Survive, a 2022 collection of soul covers.
Bruce Springsteen was born September 23, 1949 in Freehold, New Jersey, the son of Douglas Springsteen, a bus driver, and Adele (Zirilli) Springsteen, a secretary. He became interested in music after seeing Elvis Presley perform on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956 and got a guitar, but he didn't start playing seriously until 1963. In 1965, he joined his first band, the Beatles-influenced Castiles. They got as far as playing in New York City, but broke up in 1967 around the time Springsteen graduated from high school and began frequenting clubs in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
Springsteen fully consolidated his status with his next album, the two-LP set The River (October 1980), which hit number one, sold five million copies, and spawned the Top Ten hit "Hungry Heart" and the Top 40 hit "Fade Away." (In 1981-1982, Gary U.S. Bonds reached the Top 40 with two Springsteen compositions, "This Little Girl" and "Out of Work.") But having finally topped the charts, Springsteen experimented on his next album, preferring the demo recordings of the songs he had made for Nebraska (September 1982) to full-band studio versions, especially given the dark subject matter of his lyrics. The stark LP nevertheless hit the Top Ten and sold a million copies without the benefit of a hit single or a promotional tour. (Van Zandt amicably left the E Street Band for a solo career at this point and was replaced by Nils Lofgren.)
Springsteen retreated from public view in the late '80s, breaking up the E Street Band in November 1989. He returned to action in March 1992 with a new backup band, simultaneously releasing two albums, Human Touch and Lucky Town, which entered the charts at numbers two and three, respectively, each going platinum. A double-sided single combining "Human Touch" and "Better Days" was a Top 40 hit. Of course, this was a relative fall-off from the commercial heights of the mid-'80s, but Springsteen was undeterred. He next contributed the moody ballad "Streets of Philadelphia" to the soundtrack of Philadelphia, film director Jonathan Demme's 1993 depiction of a lawyer fighting an unjust termination for AIDS. The recording became a Top Ten hit, and the song went on to win Springsteen four Grammys (Song of the Year, Best Rock Song, best song written for a motion picture or television, and another for male rock vocal) and the Academy Award for best song.
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