Commonly referred to as “The Boss,” Bruce Springsteen came from humble beginnings in the suburbs of New Jersey, eventually becoming an international sensation with his 1975 record Born to Run. Throughout his career, which spans five decades, Springsteen has defined his musical style as the “working man’s rock,” frequently preaching about the plight of working-class America. The leader of the E Street Band, Springsteen has collaborated with countless artists and solidified himself as one of the greatest rock and roll icons of his time. Now, take a deeper look into Springsteen’s life, his music, and why he’s rightfully called “The Boss.”
He Wasn’t The Greatest Student
Like many artists who eventually make it big, Bruce Springsteen wasn’t known for being the best student in his younger years. Springsteen even recalls a time in third grade when “a nun stuffed me in a garbage can under her desk because she said that’s where I belonged,” and that he was knocked down by a priest as an altar boy during mass.
However, he didn’t appear to get much better as time passed. Supposedly, while attending Ocean County Community College, his fellow students protested the administration who wanted him expelled.
He Wrote “Hungry Heart” For The Ramones
A fan of the Ramones, in 1979, Springsteen traveled to Ashbury Park, New Jersey, to see the group play at the Fast Lane. He ended up hanging out with the band who admired his songwriting abilities and asked if he could maybe write a song for them to play.
Springsteen agreed and the result was the song “Hungry Heart.” Initially, Springsteen had the intention of handing the song over to the Ramones, but his manager suggested that he hang onto it for himself.
Rumor has it, that after Springsteen was spotted at the theater watching Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories, a fan challenged him to prove that he didn’t dislike his fans, (a theme in the movie). So, Springsteen agreed and the two headed to the young man’s parent’s house.
Springsteen commented on the evening that “And for two hours I was in this kid’s house, talking with these people […] They were really nice. They cooked me up all this food, watermelon, and the guy gave me a ride back to my hotel a few hours later.”
Frank Stefanko, an accomplished photographer and good friend of Springsteen has admitted that The Boss himself has quite the eye for photography. He claims that “Riding in my car he’ll notice unusual things—weird Jersey billboards, funny signs on the sides of diners—and it’s all registering […] A [nonphotographer] will just walk by and never see it. Bruce travels all over the world, taking pictures—it’s quite a collection of work.”
Nevertheless, he doesn’t know if Springsteen will actually get around to showcasing his work, but it’s further proof that Springsteen is a true artist of numerous mediums.
Upon reading Stephen King’s extensive novel, The Stand, it’s not hard to imagine Springsteen as filling in for the character Larry Underwood. Apparently, King felt the same way and wrote in the foreword of the novel’s reissue that based on his music videos, he thought he would be perfect for a film or television adaptation.
In later years, it was announced that The Stand was going to be adapted into a television series with the working titled “Radio Nowhere,” a song of Springsteen’s 2012 album Magic
He Wrote A Song For Elvis Presley
In May of 1977, Springsteen and fellow E Street member, Steven Van Zandt, went to go see Elvis Presley in Philadelphia. Inspired by Presley, Springsteen wrote the song “Fire” a few days later, sending a demo of the song to Presley hoping that he’d do a cover of it.
Unknown what Presley’s intention was to do with the song, he, unfortunately, passed away that August. The song was then given to Robert Gordon with his version being by The Pointer Sisters, which grew to become a hit in 1979.
He Was Almost Drafted IntoThe Military
After a brief stint of time attending Ocean County College before dropping out, Springsteen was called for conscription in the U.S. Army to fight in the Vietnam War. At the age of 19, however, he failed to pass the physical examination and was exempt from combat.
This was likely because he had suffered a concussion from a motorcycle accident when he was 17. It also didn’t help that he acted ‘crazy” during his examination which made him unacceptable for service.
His Only No.1 Hit Was A Cover By Another Band
Although Bruce Springsteen is one of the most renowned names in the music industry, he still has never landed that No.1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, at least on his own anyway. His closest was with his song “Dancing in the Dark” in 1984, which peaked at the No.2 spot.
However, when Manfred Mann’s Earth Band did a cover of his song “Blinded by the Light” in 1977, the opening track of his debut album, the song topped the chart. Springsteen has later gone on to joke that his only No.1 was a cover by another group.
He Broke Into Graceland To Meet Elvis
At the peak of Elvis’ career, Springsteen was just one of the many musicians who Presley inspired through his music. However, he might have had a slightly greater impact on Springsteen than most. At one point, Springsteen made an attempt to jump the Graceland wall in an effort to have a personal encounter with Presley.
Unsurprisingly, he didn’t make it very far before being apprehended by security. However, even if he had evaded them, he would have been sorry to learn that Presley was not in town at the time.
Monmouth University Is A Springsteen Treasure Trove
Since Springsteen hails from New Jersey, and Monmouth University took it upon itself to be home of The Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music. On their website, they claim that it “serves as the official archival repository for Bruce Springsteen’s written works, photographs, periodicals, and artifacts.”
The archive has more than 35,000 pieces in their collection all related to Springsteen. A must-see for any Springsteen fanatic, although it is only available to see by appointment.
It Took Him Some Time To Get Used To Having Money
After struggling for some time earlier in his career, Springsteen didn’t always have a lot of zeros in his bank account. In fact, he had some financial troubles over the years, so it felt strange to him when the money really started coming in.
Also referred to as a “working-class rocker” who empathized with the blue-collar lifestyle, some began to see him as hypocritical when he was far from it. Reluctant to spend or flaunt his money, he eventually got over his anxieties and his lifestyle began to match his bank account.
He’s A Big Advocate Of LGBT Rights
Springsteen has made it clear on several occasions that he’s a firm believer in same-sex marriage and LGBT rights as a whole. In April 2016, he even canceled a show in Greensboro, North Carolina in order to protest the newly approved Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act or “the bathroom law.”
He’s also posted numerous times on his personal website about his personal beliefs on the subject. His beliefs can be traced back to the 1990s when he gave an interview with Advocate explaining the importance of accepting gay marriage.
He Made Two Covers At Once
At the time, Bruce Springsteen became the first rock and roll artist to appear on the covers of Newsweek and Time magazines at the same time.
In 1975, two different articles were written about the astounding success of his album Born to Run, which swept critics and fans alike off their feet. The album, along with the two articles, helped launch Springsteen into a level of stardom that turned him into an international icon, where he has stayed ever since.
He’s Credited With Putting The Stone Pony On The Map
Today, the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey is widely considered to be one of the most popular music venues in the United States and even the world. This is because it’s very closely associated with Bruce Springsteen.
So close, in fact, that many people assume that’s where he might have played his first shows. While he was never a stranger to playing at the venue, it only opened in 1974, when Springsteen already had released his first two albums.
Becoming “The Boss”
Although fans refer to Springsteen as “The Boss,” few people actually know where the name came from, or that he wasn’t a fan of it at first. The name actually has its origins when Springsteen was still playing clubs and trying to make it big, long before he became an intentional star.
At the time, it was his responsibility to collect the band’s compensation from the club owners and distributing it among the band, hence being called “The Boss.” At first, he shied away from it, but it had already stuck.
“Thunder Road” Almost Had A Different Name
“Thunder Road” is easily considered to be one of Springsteen’s greatest and most recognizable songs. The opening song on Born to Run, which turned him into the success that he is, the song is a favorite of both fans and critics. It’s ranked as No. 68 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs list, but it didn’t come without its problems.
Springsteen had difficulty both writing the track and coming up with a name for it. Initially, he planned to name it Wings for Wheels,” but ultimately decided against it in favor of “Thunder Road,” the same name as Robert Mitchum’s 1958 film.
Many people assume that the E Street Band got its name because a lot of its members lived on or around the street, and that’s partially right. E Street is a real street that runs northeast through the New Jersey town of Belmar.
However, it was the street that the band’s original keyboardists, David Sancious’s mom, lived on, who let them practice there. Over the years, the band would go through 12 members with Sancious being the only person who ever lived on the street.
Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Springsteen was exposed to and inspired by many of the big bands at the time, one of these being the Beatles. So, after he purchased his first guitar for $18 at the age of 13, he was eager to learn his first song.
That song turned out to be “Twist and Shout” by the Beatles. Over the course of his professional career, he has been known to cover the song at hundreds of his shows.
Being a political musician, Springsteen initially wrote the track “American Skin” in 2000 as a response to the Amadou Diallo police shooting. Considered highly controversial, it even resulted in the NYPD to boycott his shows. While he would play it on occasion at his shows, he still never managed to record it in the studio.
The song was largely forgotten until George Zimmerman, who had shot and killed Trayvon Martin in 2012, was found not guilty, and Springsteen then reintroduced the song. He then finally recorded and released a studio version in 2014 featuring Tom Morello on the guitar.
The overwhelming success of Born to Run in 1975 had Bruce Springsteen on top of the world. He had finally made it as a musician and was recognized as an international star. However, the euphoria didn’t last forever, as he was experiencing relationship problems with his then-wife, Julianne Phillips, who he had married in 1985.
Their tumultuous relationship can be felt in his 1987 album, Tunnel of Love, which was released in 1987, a year before Phillips separated. Supposedly, during that time, Springsteen wasn’t his usual self and was known to have a short fuse and act out of character frequently.