Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen grew up in an average middle-class family, his mother Adele was a secretary and his father Douglas was a bus driver.
He started playing the guitar at high school and, at the age of 14, had formed his own band, The Castiles.
Influenced by the music of Elvis Presley, Springsteen moved to New York City to try and break into the folk music scene, but failure forced him back across the river, home to New Jersey.
Despite a particularly unhappy relationship with his record company, Bruce Springsteen’s debut album Greetings From Asbury Park was released in 1973.
CBS had perceived him as a folkie, solo performer – “the new Bob Dylan” – but the recordings contradicted this notion with a horn section and girl backing singers. A somewhat confused marketing campaign reflected this misunderstanding and initially, the record sold a mere 25,000 copies. The standout track was Blinded By The Light, which Manfred Mann covered and took to the top of the US charts in 1976.
Springsteen’s second album, The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle, also suffered poor sales although it received excellent reviews from American music critics.
Gone was the Dylanesque guitar-toting troubadour and in his place stood somebody with a far grander musical vision. Despite a massive promotional push from CBS, Springsteen’s career was still suffering due to the confusion over his supposed status as a folkie.
The confusion was resolved in 1975 when Jon Landau took over as unofficial manager and co-producer of ongoing recording sessions.
Landau scotched CBS’s notion of promoting Bruce as a folk singer and engaged Steve Van Zandt to reintroduce a hard edge to the music.
Five months on, the result was Born To Run and Springsteen’s re-birth as The Boss. The album went almost immediately to #3 in the US and his previous albums charted also for the first time.
Born To Run established Springsteen so firmly as a star that his career was able to survive litigation from record producer and former manager Mike Appel, with whom Springsteen had signed an agreement on the hood of a car in a dark parking lot.
The agreement was sufficient though to prevent Springsteen from releasing another LP until 1978, which he did with Darkness on the Edge of Town.
Musically, Darkness… was a much more subdued affair than Born To Run, with the angst tempered with romance, particularly for the road – many songs involve driving, either for escape, for thrills or both.
The River (1980) catapulted Springsteen to international fame, while on 1982’s Nebraska he ditched the E Street Band and returned to his acoustic guitar, harmonica and trademark gravelly voice. The whole album was recorded on a 4-track at his home in New Jersey.
Springsteen’s seventh album, Born In The USA, a collection of all-American anthems, propelled him to mega-stardom.
It started its seven-week reign at #1 just as his tour began (with Nils Lofgren brought in to replace Steve Van Zandt who left to form his own band). Born in the USA was also the first CD pressed in the United State for commercial release.
By 1987 Springsteen was in the midst of divorce, remarriage and fatherhood, and the album Tunnel Of Love was more intimate and personal. It received excellent reviews but was the last album to do so for some time.
The jointly released albums Lucky Town and Human Touch (1992) were written off as “bland and routine”.
Taking its name from a John Steinbeck hero, The Ghost Of Tom Joad (1995) was seen as a return to form, with Springsteen claiming the mantle of Woody Guthrie.
His output since then has largely been for the Springsteen fan only and he remains unconcerned with chart placings or commercial success. In 2003 he reunited with The E Street Band for The Rising.