First, a little about “The Boss”
Bruce Springsteen is the rare kind of musician that is commercially successful on a massive scale, and at the same time earning heaps of critical approval. He scored hit singles such as “Born To Run,” “Hungry Heart,” “Dancing In The Dark,” “Born In The U.S.A.,” “Cover Me,” “I’m On Fire,” “Glory Days,” “I’m Goin’ Down,” “My Hometown,” “War,” “Brilliant Disguise,” and many others. His New Jersey roots in particular are evident in his songs. Aside from the top-selling concerts, Springsteen also achieved 19 Grammy Awards and has more than 65 million records sold under his belt.
Early life and career
The rock superstar Bruce Springsteen was born Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen in Long Ranch, New Jersey on September 23, 1949. As he was growing up, he was interested in music, and as soon as he got his first guitar during his 16th birthday he had never stopped playing it. It also lent a negative effect on his school life. He studied at a Catholic school, where he was at odds with the nuns and school rules. After that he was transferred to a public school and as a recluse, he didn’t fit there either. As soon as he finished high school, he felt too uncomfortable to attend graduation.
Springsteen deliberately failed in his tests for military service in order to follow his musical pursuits. In the late 1960s, he had begun playing in the beach town in New Jersey called Asbury Park for many different bands and with many musicians. Along the way he was starting to form his own unique vocal, lyrical and musical style. It was also in Asbury Park where Springsteen formed his own E Street Band.
It was during this period that people began to call him “The Boss” as he took on the task of collecting money after his band’s nightly gigs and distributing the income evenly to his band mates.
Slow but sure ascent to commercial success
In 1972, Springsteen signed his first record deal with Columbia Records. Together with his E Street Band, he released his debut album later that year, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. The album sold relatively poorly although it garnered positive critical reviews, especially on his songwriting. Springsteen and the E Street Band followed this up with The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle in 1973 to the same effect — praised by critics but ignored by the music-listening public.
As we all say, third’s time the charm for Bruce Springsteen as he released his next effort Born to Run in 1975. As usual, it garnered widespread critical acclaim, and this time it was a commercial triumph. Born to Run sold over six million copies in the US alone. Its title track reached only #23 on the Hot 100 but in the years that followed it has become one of Springsteen’s trademark songs.
The shows that Springsteen and the E Street Band staged in their promotional tours were getting a lot of buzz for their loud, boisterous performances brimming with infectious energy. His concerts became colossal, and Springsteen earned a reputation as a dynamic concert figure.
In 1978, Springsteen released his fourth LP Darkness At The Edge Of Town which eventually sold three million copies and peaked at #5 on the Billboard 200. Springsteen released The River, which topped the Billboard 200 in 1980, buoyed by the #5 Hot 100 single “Hungry Heart.” 1982’s Nebraska, like its predecessors, carried the same heartland rock style that explored the themes of the everyday working class American citizen.
Rise to superstardom with “Born In The U.S.A.”
Despite all these successful albums, it was not until Springsteen ultimately rose to rock superstardom when he released his seventh album Born in the U.S.A. in 1984. The album featured a brighter, more accessible and radio-friendly pop sound that contributed to its success — a departure from the darker, pessimistic atmosphere of its predecessor Nebraska.
Born in the U.S.A. yielded an unbelievable seven Top 10 singles: “Dancing in the Dark” (at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100), “Born in the U.S.A.” (at #9), “Cover Me” (at #7), “I’m On Fire” (at #6), “Glory Days” (at #5), “I’m Goin’ Down” (at #9) and “My Hometown” (at #6).
The album sold 15 million units in the US alone, garnering it a “Diamond” certification. It also sold 13 million copies in Australia, 16 million in New Zealand and 10 million in Canada. The album spent a total of 84 weeks, making Born in the U.S.A. the album which has spent the most consecutive weeks on the Billboard 200’s Top 10. Born in the U.S.A. topped the global charts as well — from UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, to Germany, Norway and Sweden.
In the height of the phenomenal success brought about by Born in the U.S.A., Springsteen married actress and model Julianne Phillips in 1985. But their marriage quickly began to disintegrate, and Springsteen had begun an affair with Patti Scialfa, a long-time friend and also one of the backing singers of his E Street Band. Like Springsteen, Scialfa also hailed from the working-class New Jersey background.
During his unhappy marriage to Phillips, Springsteen chronicled his troubled love life by writing and recording Tunnel of Love, which was released in 1987. Although it wasn’t as successful as Born in the U.S.A., Tunnel of Love sold 3 million copies in the US, and went platinum in many countries. Musically, Tunnel of Love was a far cry from Born in the U.S.A., as the former had a relatively sparse production. It spawned three hit singles: “Brilliant Disguise” (at #5 on the Hot 100), “One Step Up” (at #23) and the title track (at #9).
In 1989 Springsteen parted ways with the E Street Band, as well as his divorce from Phillips was finalized. He then married Patti Scialfi in 1991.
As Springsteen found happiness in his personal life, the course of his career otherwise began to ease up. His next albums Human Touch and Lucky Townshowed a more introspective side of him. Both albums were released on the same date (March 31, 1992). They sold modestly compared to its predecessors, though both albums managed to get a platinum certification.
As Springsteen and his family moved to Los Angeles, California, he faced the criticism of some fans of his literally “going Hollywood.” In the early and mid 1990s Springsteen released another album The Ghost of Tom Joad and also contributed to the soundtrack for the Tom Hanks-starred drama film Philadelphia. Springsteen received an Oscar for his work in the movie.
Ten years after Springsteen’s split with the E Street Band, they reunited in 1999 — the same year that he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The E Street Band has been active ever since after the reunion.
2002’s The Rising was Springsteen and the E Street Band’s first album in eighteen years. The Rising became a success critically and commercially, topping the US, UK Australian, Canadian, German, and Swedish charts that year. His subsequent follow-ups — Devils & Dust (2005), We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (2006),Magic (2007), Working On A Dream (2009), and Wrecking Ball (2012) were all respectable commercial successes. In July 2012, he performed alongside another music legend, Paul McCartney, at London’s Hyde Park.