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The Life and Career of Bruce Springsteen

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Born September 23rd, 1949 in Long Branch, New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen fell in love with music when he was a teenager. He started playing in bands and also performed solo shows that eventually got him noticed by the music industry. Throughout the years, Springsteen developed and refined his own brand of Heartland rock and built a reputation for marathon live shows that is still with him today. In this video, takes a look at the life and career of singer-songwriter, Bruce Springsteen.

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Early Bands

Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen was born on September 23rd, 1949 in Long Branch, New Jersey. It was at the age of seven that Springsteen saw Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show, and this prompted his interest in music. Buying his first guitar at 13, it wasn’t long before he started playing in bands. These included the trio Earth, with whom he acquired his nickname, “The Boss,” and Steel Mill, a band that featured the core members of what would later become the E Street Band.

Columbia Records Debut

Aside from his band experience, Springsteen was also playing solo shows at various nightclubs. In 1972, he signed a deal with Columbia Records. His debut, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., was recorded with the E Street Band and released in January 1973.

Breakthrough with "Born to Run"

Springsteen’s sophomore record, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, was released in September of that same year. Though it was widely accepted by critics, the album sold poorly, much like his first record. The next year, music critic John Landau became Springsteen’s manager, and co-produced what would become the singer’s breakthrough record, 1975’s Born to Run. The album was a critical and commercial success, and both its title track and the song “Thunder Road” became rock radio staples.

"Darkness on the Edge of Town" and "The River"

The E Street Band stayed on tour for much of the next year while a lawsuit between Springsteen and his former manager was settled. He returned to the studio in 1977 to record Darkness on the Edge of Town, an album that showcased his political awareness more than previous efforts. He continued with the theme of working-class life on his 1980 album The River, and the record produced The Boss’ first top ten hit, “Hungry Heart.”

"Born in the USA" and Live Performances

1982 saw Springsteen release the solo acoustic record, Nebraska. This was followed up with what is his biggest album to date, 1984’s Born in the U.S.A. This record spawned seven Top Ten singles, including the popular “Dancing in the Dark.” Two years later, a box set entitled Live/1975-85 further cemented his reputation as a solid performer and became one of the most commercially successful live albums of all time.

Love and Relationships

In 1987, Springsteen came out with Tunnel of Love, an album that focused on love’s ups and downs. During the subsequent tour, news of an affair between Springsteen and backup singer Patti Scialfa (SKAL-fah) led to his divorce from his first wife, Julianne Phillips, in 1988. Soon after, Springsteen dissolved the E Street Band, moved to California and married Scialfa in 1991.

More Albums, Including His "Greatest Hits"

In March 1992, Springsteen released two albums, Lucky Town and Human Touch. The next year, he wrote “Streets of Philadelphia” for the movie, “Philadelphia.” This song won him a Golden Globe, an Oscar and several Grammy awards. His first Greatest Hits album came out in 1995 and was followed by his eleventh studio album, The Ghost of Tom Joad, later that year.

The E Street Band and Other Projects

By 1999, Springsteen had reformed the E Street Band to the delight of fans. Together, they went on a massive reunion tour. Springsteen’s first album with the full band in almost two decades was released shortly after. 2002’s The Rising was released in the wake of the September 11th attacks. Proving his status as a hard-working music man, a solo record called Devils & Dust was released in 2005, and a Pete Seeger cover album entitled We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions followed a year later.

"Magic" and "Working on a Dream"

In 2007, he went back into the studio with the E Street Band and recorded his fifteenth album, Magic. The next year, Springsteen showed his support for President Barack Obama during his campaign by playing material that would soon be released on his 2009 album, Working on a Dream, at rallies. 2010 saw the re-release of his 1978 album, Darkness on the Edge of Town. Released as a box set, the album was accompanied by a documentary called, “The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town.”

Springsteen's Enduring Heartland Rock

This singer-songwriter, guitarist, social activist and family man has been one of rock’s top acts since the 1970s. With his own version of Heartland rock, featuring poetic yet accessible lyrics and lengthy live shows, Bruce Springsteen’s music has influenced many and is likely to continue doing so for generations to come.

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