(Read all about Bruce Springsteen after the video)
Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen (born September 23, 1949) is an American singer-songwriter. He is known for his work with the E Street Band. Nicknamed "The Boss", Springsteen is widely known for his brand of poetic lyrics, Americana, working class and 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.
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.
1964–1972: Early years
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's mother bought him 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".
Other acts followed over the next two years, as Springsteen sought to shape a unique and genuine musical and lyrical style: Dr. Zoom & the Sonic Boom (early- to mid-1971), the Sundance Blues Band (mid-1971), and the Bruce Springsteen Band (mid-1971 to mid-1972). With the addition of pianist David Sancious, the core of what would later become the E Street Band was formed, with occasional temporary additions such as horn sections, the Zoomettes (a group of female backing vocalists for Dr. Zoom) and Southside Johnny Lyon on harmonica. Musical genres explored included blues, R&B, jazz, church music, early rock 'n' roll, and soul, with major influences being Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Leon Russell and Van Morrison. 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 routinely sold out consecutive nights in major New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York venues. He also made many surprise appearances at The Stone Pony and other shore nightclubs over the years.
1972–1974: Initial struggle for success
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.
Because of Springsteen's lyrical poeticism and folk rock-rooted music exemplified on tracks like "Blinded by the Light"[note 1] and "For You", as well as the Columbia and Hammond connections, critics initially compared Springsteen to Bob Dylan. "He sings with a freshness and urgency I haven't heard since I was rocked by 'Like a Rolling Stone'" wrote Crawdaddy magazine editor Peter Knobler in Springsteen's first interview/profile in March 1973. Photographs for that original profile were taken by Ed Gallucci. Crawdaddy discovered Springsteen in the rock press and was his earliest champion. Knobler profiled him in Crawdaddy three times, in 1973, 1975 and 1978. (Springsteen and the E Street Band acknowledged the magazine's support by giving a private performance at the Crawdaddy 10th Anniversary Party in New York City in June 1976.) Music critic Lester Bangs wrote in Creem in 1975 that when Springsteen's first album was released "... many of us dismissed it: he wrote like Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, sang like Van Morrison and Robbie Robertson, and led a band that sounded like Van Morrison's". The track "Spirit in the Night" especially showed Morrison's influence, while "Lost in the Flood" was the first of many portraits of Vietnam veterans, and "Growin' Up", his first take on the recurring theme of adolescence.
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. "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" and "Incident on 57th Street" would become fan favorites, and the long, rousing "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" continues to rank among Springsteen's most beloved concert numbers.
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.
The album took more than 14 months to record, with six months spent on the song "Born to Run". During this time, Springsteen battled with anger and frustration over the album, saying he heard "sounds in [his] head" that he could not explain to the others in the studio. It was during these recording sessions that "Miami" Steve Van Zandt would stumble into the studio just in time to help Springsteen organize the horn section on "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out". Van Zandt, who would eventually join the E Street Band, had been a longtime friend of Springsteen, as well as a collaborator on earlier musical projects, and understood where he was coming from, which helped him to translate some of the sounds Springsteen was hearing. Still, by the end of the grueling recording sessions Springsteen was not satisfied, and upon first hearing the finished album, threw it into the alley and told Jon Landau he would rather just cut it live at The Bottom Line (a place he often played).
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 ("Born to Run" reached a modest No. 23 on the Billboard charts, and "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" peaked at No. 83), almost every track on the album received album-oriented rock airplay, especially "Born to Run", "Thunder Road", "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," and "Jungleland", all of which remain perennial favorites on many classic rock stations.
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.
A legal battle with former manager Mike Appel kept Springsteen out of the studio for nearly a year, during which time he kept the E Street Band together through extensive touring across the U.S. Despite the optimistic fervor with which he often performed, Springsteen's new songs sounded more somber than much of his previous work. Reaching settlement with Appel in 1977, Springsteen returned to the studio, and the subsequent sessions produced Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978). Musically, this album was a turning point in Springsteen's career. Gone were the raw, rapid-fire lyrics, outsized characters, and long, multi-part musical compositions of the first three albums; the songs were leaner and more carefully drawn and began to reflect Springsteen's growing intellectual and political awareness. The cross-country 1978 tour to promote the album would become legendary for the intensity and length of its shows.
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. The subsequent No Nukes live album, as well as the following summer's No Nukes documentary film, represented the first official recordings and footage of Springsteen's fabled live act, as well as Springsteen's first tentative dip into political involvement.
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". Like the previous two albums, musical styles on The River were derived largely from rock 'n' roll music of the 50s and 60s, but with a more explicit pop-rock sound than earlier albums. This is apparent in the adoption of Eighties pop-rock hallmarks like the reverberating-tenor drums, very basic percussion/guitar and repetitive lyrics apparent in many of the tracks. The title song pointed to Springsteen's intellectual direction, while a couple of the lesser-known tracks presaged his musical direction. The album sold well, becoming his first No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart, and a long tour in 1980 and 1981 followed, which included Springsteen's first extended tour of Europe and ending with a series of multi-night arena stands in major cities in the U.S.
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". According to the Marsh biographies, Springsteen was depressed when he wrote this material, and the result is a brutal depiction of American life. While Nebraska did not sell as well as Springsteen's three previous albums, it garnered widespread critical praise (including being named "Album of the Year" by Rolling Stone magazine's critics) and influenced later works by other major artists, including U2's album The Joshua Tree. Springsteen did not tour in conjunction with Nebraska's release.
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. The two were opposites in background, had an 11-year age difference and his traveling took its toll on their relationship. In 1987, Springsteen wrote his next album, Tunnel of Love, on which many of the songs described his unhappiness in the relationship with Phillips.
In 1988, the Tunnel of Love Express Tour began and Springsteen convinced Scialfa to join the tour again. She expressed reluctance at first, since she wanted to start recording her first solo album, but after Springsteen told her that the tour would be short, she agreed to postpone her own solo record. Phillips and Springsteen separated in the spring of 1988, but it wasn’t made known to the press. Springsteen and Scialfa fell in love with each other during the Tunnel of Love Express Tour and started living together soon after his separation from Phillips. On August 30, 1988, Julianne filed for divorce and it was finalized on March 1, 1989. Springsteen received press criticism for the hastiness in which he and Scialfa took up their relationship. In a 1995 interview with The Advocate, Springsteen told Judy Wieder about the negative publicity the couple subsequently received. "It's a strange society that assumes it has the right to tell people whom they should love and whom they shouldn't. But the truth is, I basically ignored the entire thing as much as I could. I said, 'Well, all I know is, this feels real, and maybe I have got a mess going here in some fashion, but that's life.'" He also told Wieder that, "I went through a divorce, and it was really difficult and painful and I was very frightened about getting married again. So part of me said, 'Hey, what does it matter?' But it does matter. It's very different than just living together. First of all, stepping up publicly—which is what you do: You get your license, you do all the social rituals—is a part of your place in society and in some way part of society's acceptance of you ... Patti and I both found that it did mean something."
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.
When the children reached school-age in the early 1990s, Springsteen and Scialfa moved back to New Jersey specifically to raise a family in a non-paparazzi environment. The grounds of his New Jersey home include a large swimming pool. The family owns and lives on a horse farm in Colts Neck, New Jersey. They also own homes in Wellington, Florida, Los Angeles and Rumson, New Jersey.
Their older son, Evan, graduated from Boston College. He writes and performs his own songs and won the 2012 Singer/Songwriter Competition held during the Boston College's Arts Festival. Their daughter Jessica is a nationally ranked champion equestrian, and graduated from Duke University. She made her show-jumping debut with the Team USA in August 2014. Their younger son, Sam, is a firefighter.
It has been reported that the press conference regarding the 2009 Super Bowl XLIII half-time show was Springsteen's first press conference in more than 25 years. However, he has appeared in a few radio interviews, most notably on NPR and BBC. 60 Minutes aired one of his last extensive interviews on TV before his tour to support his album, Magic. Springsteen has talked about his mental health struggles.
Springsteen is an activist for LGBT rights and has spoken out many times as a strong supporter of gay marriage. In 2009, he posted the following statement on his website: "I've long believed in and have always spoken out for the rights of same sex couples and fully agree with Governor Corzine when he writes that 'The marriage-equality issue should be recognized for what it truly is—a civil rights issue that must be approved to assure that every citizen is treated equally under the law.'" In 2012, he lent his support to an ad campaign for gay marriage called "The Four 2012". Springsteen noted in the ad, "I couldn't agree more with that statement and urge those who support equal treatment for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to let their voices be heard now." In April 2016, Springsteen cancelled a show in Greensboro, North Carolina days before it was to take place to protest the state's newly passed Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, also referred to as the "bathroom law". The law dictates which rest rooms transgender people are permitted to use and prevents LGBT citizens from suing over human rights violations in the workplace. Springsteen released an official statement on his website. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) celebrated Springsteen's statement and he has received much praise and gratitude from the LGBT community. 
Springsteen was out riding his motorcycle on November 11, 2016 when it broke down and he was stranded alongside the road. A group of men from the Freehold American Legion in New Jersey were returning from a Veterans Day event on their motorcycles when they spotted Springsteen and stopped to help. Springsteen hitched a ride on the back of one of the men's motorcycles to a nearby restaurant where the group grabbed a round of drinks, for which Springsteen picked up the tab, while waiting for his ride.
While rejecting religion in his earlier years, Bruce stated in his Autobiography "Born To Run", he has "a personal relationship with Jesus. I believe in his power to save, love...but not to damn". (Chapter "the church", page 17"). In terms of Catholic faith, he has stated that he "came to ruefully and bemusedly understand that once you’re a Catholic you’re always a Catholic" and "I don’t participate in my religion but I know somewhere...deep inside...I’m still on the team."
In 2017, in an interview with Tom Hanks, Springsteen admitted to being a tax evader early in his career.