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Bruce Springsteen is an arena rock star and a well-regarded singer-songwriter. His best known songs chronicle Springsteen's working-class roots in New Jersey.
Bruce Springsteen - The Boss (4:03)
Bruce Springsteen - Full Episode (45:21)
An inside look at author Peter Ames Carlin's biography, "Bruce." Click "Buy Now" to learn more about the book. Video courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
Bruce Springsteen bought his first guitar at a pawnshop for $18. Since then, the New Jersey native has had one of the most impressive careers in music with his string of hits, including "Born to Run" and "Born in the U.S.A."
Each of Bruce Springsteen's songs tells a story from his life.
Bruce Springsteen made a name for himself as a hot-shot guitar player on the Jersey Shore.
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Born on September 23, 1949, in the town of Long Branch, New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen played the bar circuit while assembling his famous E Street Band. His breakout record "Born to Run" united arena rock with human-size tales of working-class America. Springsteen consistently sells out his tours and has long been associated with left-leaning political causes; supporting John Kerry in the 2004 election.
Rock musician Bruce Springsteen was born September 23, 1949, in Long Branch, New Jersey. Springsteen was raised in a working-class household in Freehold Borough. The future Boss's father, Doug Springsteen, had trouble holding down a steady job and worked at different times as a bus driver, millworker and prison guard. Adele Springsteen, Bruce's mother, brought in steadier income as a secretary in a local insurance office. Young Bruce and his father had a difficult relationship. "When I was growing up, there were two things that were unpopular in my house," the singer later recalled. "One was me, and the other was my guitar."
Years later, however, Springsteen suggested that his fraught relationship with his father had been important for his art. "I've gotta thank him," Springsteen said upon his induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, "because what would I conceivably have written about without him? I mean, you can imagine that if everything had gone great between us, we would have had disaster. I would have written just happy songs—and I tried it in the early '90s and it didn't work… Anyway, I put on his work clothes and I went to work. It was the way that I honored him. My parents' experience forged my own. They shaped my politics, and they alerted me to what is at stake when you're born in the U.S.A."
Springsteen first fell in love with rock 'n' roll when he saw Elvis Presley perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. "[Elvis] was as big as the whole country itself," Springsteen later remembered, "as big as the whole dream. He just embodied the essence of it and he was in mortal combat with the thing. Nothing will ever take the place of that guy." Springsteen's mother took out a loan to buy him a $60 Kent guitar for his 16th birthday, and he hasn't stopped playing the instrument since then.
An outsider and recluse in school, Springsteen frequently got in trouble at his Catholic elementary school. "In the third grade, a nun stuffed me in a garbage can under her desk because she said that's where I belonged," he said. "I also had the distinction of being the only altar boy knocked down by a priest during mass." Several years later, he skipped his own high school graduation because he felt too uncomfortable to attend.
In 1967, an 18-year-old Springsteen was drafted for military service in the Vietnam War. But as he later told Rolling Stone magazine, the only thought in his head as he traveled to his induction was "I ain't goin'." Springsteen failed his physical, largely due to his deliberately "crazy" behavior and a concussion previously suffered in a motorcycle accident.
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