Bob Seger – One of the Pillars of Heartland Rock

The rock legend Bob Seger

Bob Seger evolved from being one of the hard-rockin’ musicians into one of the pillars of what is called “heartland rock” – the type of rock subgenre that has a straightforward style, and touches more on emotional and social issues rather than just entertaining the audience, just like the other forms of classic rock. He has had a long career that has spanned five decades, several platinum albums, and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame under his belt. He started to achieve commercial success during the 70s music scene. For oldies music fans in particular who lived during that time, Bob Seger was certainly a big name.

Seger’s early life and start in music career — jumping from band to the next.

Seger was born Robert Clark Seger on May 6, 1945 in Lincoln Park, Michigan. His family moved to the nearby city of Ann Arbor. Among his earliest musical inspirations were Little Richard and Elvis Presley, like most kids at that time.

He started pursuing music in 1961, fronting the trio the Decibels, who were based in Detroit, Michigan. One of the members of the group was Eddie “Punch” Andrews who would become Seger’s manager. After the Decibles, he moved back to Ann Arbor and joined The Town Criers. Seger then joined another band, Doug Brown and the Omens as vocalist and keyboardist – the band later recorded a song called “Ballad of The Yellow Beret,” which was their parody of Barry Sadler’s song, “Ballad of The Green Beret.” After receiving threats from Sadler himself to sue the band, the song was never released as was originally planned.

Seger’s solo career

Seger started to pursue a solo singing career in the mid-1960s, releasing his first single “East Side Story” – it became a local hit. He formed a short-lived label, Cameo Records, where he continued to release a few more singles such as “Persecution Smith” and “Heavy Music” until the imprint folded. He formed his first own group, Bob Seger & The Last Heard, who released “Heavy Music” that later became his first charting single, peaking at #103 on the national charts in 1967.

Later struggles

The following year, Seger formed another band, Bob Seger System and released his first album Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, on Capitol Records. The album’s title track also became a single – it provided Seger with his first big hit, peaking at #17 on the Hot 100 that year. However, the group’s follow-up, Noah, sold poorly, so Seger withdrew from music for a while to attend college.

In 1970 Seger returned, along with a group of backing musicians, and released Mongrel, which also failed to follow up the success of Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man. As well, his following releases – Brand New Morning, Smokin’ O.P.’s, Back in ’72, and Seven – failed to register high on the charts. Seger returned to Capitol Records to work on his next LP, Beautiful Loser along with his new group the Silver Bullet Band. While it wasn’t a hit when it was first released, Beautiful Loser eventually gained fans across the country (over the years, it eventually went double platinum).

Catapulting to success and mainstream fame

1976’s Live Bullet was recorded by Seger and the Silver Bullet Band at Cobo Hall in Detroit, Michigan which was then considered one of the most esteemed concert venues. It became a big hit, eventually going to quadruple platinum. Most importantly, the success of Live Bullet catapulted Seger to mainstream fame.

The follow-up Night Moves (1976) became a huge success, going multi-platinum; its title track went to #4 on the Hot 100 singles chart that same year. The subsequent album Stranger In Town also became a multi-platinum success, yielding four singles that became Top 40 hits: “Still The Same” (at #4), “Hollywood Nights” (at #12), “We’ve Got Tonight” (at #13) and “Old Time Rock and Roll” (at #28). Seger and his Silver Bullet Band’s 1980 album Against The Wind also got a multi-platinum status producing two Top 10 hits “Fire Lake” and the title track

Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band continued their multi-platinum success with another live album Nine Tonight, also recorded at Cobo Hall in 1980. It also became a huge success.

More gold and platinum releases

Seger came out with another studio effort, The Distance in 1982. A bit of tension was growing within the Silver Bullet Band as the recording of the album had also employed session musicians – the first time Seger did this since Seven days. Frustrated, Silver Bullet’s guitarist Drew Abbott quit. Since then the band’s lineup has been undergoing frequent changes. The album did well (peaking at #5 on the Billboard 200 chart; its single “Shame On The Moon” went to #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the adult contemporary charts) but not as spectacularly as the previous efforts did – a signal that Seger’s popularity was starting to ebb down. Subsequent releases Like A Rock (1986) and The Fire Inside (1991) also went platinum, but It’s A Mystery (1995) was the first album in years that didn’t make it to the platinum mark, ending up with a gold finish. Seger’s single “Shakedown” was featured on Beverly Hills Cop II motion picture soundtrack, and went to #1, his only chart-topping single on the Hot 100 to date.

Still up and playing

Around that time Seger also eased down on performing, only playing on a few selected dates. He released his latest studio album yet, Face The Promise which went to #4 on the Billboard 200, going platinum.

Among the awards Bob Seger has received is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004; Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 2012; a Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for his performance in the song “Against The Wind” in 1981, as well as several nominations. Seger, nearing his 70’s, still records and performs today.


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