Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen (born September 23, 1949), nicknamed "The Boss," is an American singer-songwriter and leader of the E Street Band. He is recognized for his poetic lyrics, his Jersey Shore roots, his distinctive voice, and his lengthy, energetic stage performances.
Springsteen has recorded both 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 135 million records worldwide and more than 64 million records in the United States, making him one of the world's best-selling artists. He has earned numerous awards for his work, including 20 Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes, an Academy Award, and a Tony Award (for Springsteen on Broadway). Springsteen was inducted into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1999, received Kennedy Center Honors in 2009, was named MusiCares person of the year in 2013, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.
Previously married to actress Julianne Phillips, Springsteen married musician Patti Scialfa in 1991. Their three children are Evan James Springsteen, Jessica Rae Springsteen, and Sam Ryan Springsteen.
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 "Dutch" Springsteen (1924–1998), was of Dutch and Irish ancestry, and worked as a bus driver, among other jobs, but was unemployed most of the time. Bruce's father suffered from mental health issues through his life which worsened in his later years. 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 emigrated through Ellis Island, and when he arrived, he couldn't read or write. Eventually he became a lawyer, and impressed Springsteen when he was younger as being larger than life. Springsteen 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 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 ninth grade, Springsteen began attending 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 graduated in 1967, but felt so uncomfortable that he skipped the ceremony. He briefly attended Ocean County College, but dropped out.
Springsteen draws on many musical influences from the reservoir of traditional American popular music, folk, blues and country. From the beginning, rock and roll has been a dominant influence and Springsteen's musical and lyrical evocations, as well as public tributes, of artists such as Dylan, Presley, The Animals, Roy Orbison, Gary "U.S." Bonds, and many others helped to rekindle interest in their music. Springsteen's other preferred musical style is American folk, evident on his debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, New Jersey, and more strongly on Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad. Springsteen songs such as "This Hard Land" demonstrate the lyrical and musical influence of Woody Guthrie.
Elements of Latin American music, jazz, soul, and funk influences can be heard on Springsteen's second album, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle; the song "New York City Serenade" is even reminiscent of the music of George Gershwin. Prominent in these two records is the pianist David Sancious, who left the band shortly into the recording of Springsteen's third album, Born To Run (which also emphasized the piano, played by Roy Bittan).
Subsequently, Springsteen focused more on the rock elements of his music. He initially compressed the sound and developed Darkness on the Edge of Town just as straightforward as concise musical idiom, for the simple riffs, rock guitar solos and clearly recognizable song structures are dominant. His music has been categorized as heartland rock, a style typified by Springsteen, John Fogerty, Tom Petty, Bob Seger, and John Mellencamp. This music has a lyrical reference to the U.S. everyday and the music is kept rather simple and straightforward. This development culminated with Springsteen's hit album Born in the U.S.A., the title song of which has a constantly repeating, fanfare-like keyboard riff and a pounding drum beat. These sounds fit with Springsteen's voice: it cries to the listener the unsentimental story of a disenchanted angry figure. Even songs that can be argued to be album tracks proved to be singles that enjoyed some chart success, such as "My Hometown" and "I'm on Fire", in which the drum line is formed from subtle hi-hat and rim-clicks-shock (shock at the edge of the snare drum) accompanied by synthesizer and Springsteen's soft guitar line. The album, along with some previous records such as "Cadillac Ranch" showed clear rockabilly influences as is evident from his guitar solos, in-fills and vocal styles on these. Another clear influence of early rock n roll on Springsteen's music is evident on the song "Light of Day".
In recent years, Springsteen has changed his music further. There are more folk elements up to the gospel to be heard. His 2005 solo album, Devils and Dust, drew rave reviews not only for Springsteen's complex songwriting, but also for his expressive and sensitive singing.
On the album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions Springsteen performed folk classics with a folk band, rather than his usual E Street Band. On his ensuing tour he also interpreted some of his own rock songs in a folk style.
On his 2012 album, Wrecking Ball, Springsteen incorporated a variety of styles, including folk, gospel, and even hip-hop, with a rap in the song "Rocky Ground". His studio work with producer Ron Aniello, Wrecking Ball and High Hopes, has also become more experimental, featuring loops and computerized sounds.
Often described as cinematic in their scope, Springsteen's lyrics frequently explore highly personal themes such as individual commitment, dissatisfaction and dismay with life in a context of everyday situations.
It has been recognized that there was a shift in his lyrical approach starting with the album Darkness on the Edge of Town, in which he focused on the emotional struggles of working class life.
Springsteen has been a member of, or has been backed by, several bands during his career, most notably the E Street Band. Earlier bands include the Rogues, the Castiles, Earth, Child, Steel Mill, the Sundance Blues Band, Dr Zoom and the Sonic Boom, and the Bruce Springsteen Band. In October 1972 he formed a new band for the recording of his debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., which became known as The E Street Band, although the name was not used until September 1974. Suki Lahav who was born on a kibbutz in Israel played violin with the E Street band as an unofficial member during live shows in the 1970s.
The E Street Band performed on all of Springsteen's recorded works from his debut until 1982's Nebraska, a solo album on which Springsteen himself played all the instruments. The full band returned for the next album Born in the USA, but from 1988 to 1999, albums were recorded with session musicians. The E Street Band briefly reunited in 1995 for new contributions to the Greatest Hits compilation, and on a more permanent basis from 1999, since which time they have recorded more albums and performed a number of high-profile tours. The 2005 album Devils & Dust was largely a solo recording, with some contribution from session musicians and the 2006 folk rock We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions album was recorded and toured with another band, known as The Sessions Band.