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At first listen, Bruce Springsteen's hit song “Born in the USA” is a rousing tribute to patriotism. The lyrics have a much deeper meaning. The song speaks of the soul-wrenching experience of young Americans during the Vietnam era. It's a showstopper, due to both the driving rock and the thoughtful words. It reveals much about the legendary Springsteen.
The high-energy, gravel-voiced Springsteen stepped into the spotlight in 1972 but struggled to establish his career. He released his first album, “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.” in 1973 under Columbia's label. When Lester Bangs reviewed the album in “Rolling Stone,” he declared Springsteen to be "totally unique" because of his remarkable lyrics. Back then, Bruce Springsteen tickets weren’t going for much, though the young rocker was popular with the college crowd. The performance on his first two albums was uneven, but inside the shy youngster from New Jersey lived a larger-than-life performer.
Although the album featured “Blinded by the Light,” which would later be a hit song when released by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, neither this album nor his second garnered a great sales record. Then came the performance at Cambridge's Harvard Square Theater and John Landau's famous line from his column in “The Real Paper.” "I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen,"¹ the columnist wrote. Landau was so impressed that he became a member of Springsteen's management team and helped to rocket him to stardom.
In 1975, the team released Bruce's first gold record, “Born to Run,” to immense acclaim. Springsteen's likeness was featured on the covers of both “Time” and “Newsweek” on October 27. In time, the record went platinum. Versatility and depth characterize Springsteen’s music and explain why, nearly 40 years after his first album, “The Boss” still captivates audiences.
Spring forward to 2012. Bruce Springsteen tour tickets for his “Wrecking Ball” tour sell for well more than $100, and those are the cheap seats in the nosebleed section. The tour is scheduled to run through the month of July. “Wrecking Ball” is Springsteen’s 10th album to hit the number one spot.
Springsteen has won 21 Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes and one Academy Award. Worldwide, he has sold more than 120 million albums. His concerts feature the driving beat of rock juxtaposed against mellow mood pieces. Springsteen’s poetic and powerful voice speaks to the experiences, struggles and heartache of ordinary people and the triumph of their spirit.
By his own account, Springsteen’s writing is deeply rooted in the Catholic faith of his early life. Add to this his clear-eyed appraisal of life in America and the undeniable talent of a versatile musician. Springsteen’s range includes blues, jazz, soul, and church music as well as the rock for which he is best known.
Much has been said about this many-faceted musician. As a political activist, spokesman for the common man, eloquent street poet, fun-loving rocker, and loving father to his three children, this complex and thoroughly American performer continues to make history.