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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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Springsteen's 4-F classification—unfit for military service—freed him from having to go to Vietnam and allowed him to pursue music full-time.
By the late 1960s, Springsteen was spending most of his time in Asbury Park on the New Jersey Shore, playing in several different bands while he forged his unique sound and introduced audiences to the gravelly baritone voice for which he would later become famous. It was there that he first met the musicians who would later form his E Street Band. Around this time, Springsteen also acquired his nickname, "The Boss," because he had a habit of collecting money earned during shows and then distributing it evenly among his band mates.
After signing with Columbia Records, Springsteen released his first studio album in 1972. Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. garnered critical acclaim but slow sales. Many compared him to Bob Dylan for his introspective lyrics and poetic style, but this did not immediately help Springsteen make it big. Springsteen and the E Street Band followed their debut with The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle later the same year but found themselves lauded by critics but largely dismissed by the public.
Finally, in 1975, after over a year in the studio, Springsteen released a third album, Born to Run, which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and skyrocketed him to fame. Drawing heavily on Springsteen's New Jersey roots, the album offered soaring guitars, larger-than-life characters, urban romance and a rebellious spirit that captured the essence of the American Dream and connected with audiences of all ages.
Springsteen's next album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, released in 1978, was a more somber affair, emphasizing themes of lost love, depression and existential suffering. "The whole force of Darkness was a survival thing," he said. "After Born to Run, I had a reaction to my good fortune. With success, it felt like a lot of people who'd come before me lost some essential part of themselves. My greatest fear was that success was going to change or diminish that part of myself."
In order to promote the album, Springsteen and the E Street Band embarked on a cross-country tour that would make them famous for their marathon performances (three or four hours per show), boisterous behavior and infectious energy, captivating audiences from California to New York. During this time, Springsteen also became famous for his integrity and pride as a performer, as stories of his exhausting performances and perfectionism in the recording studio became legend.
Darkness at the Edge of Town marked a shift in Springsteen's musical style that he continued in his next two albums, The River (1980) and Nebraska (1982), which both explored themes about working-class Americans. Nebraska was a raw, solo acoustic effort that has been lauded by music fans for its provocative sound.
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