June 18 – Remembering The Big Man

Car accidents have put an end to many a promising music career (Harry Chapin, anybody?) but it would be extraordinary for one to create one. And that might be the case with the extraordinary man we remember today, Clarence Clemons. The sax player for Bruce Springsteen passed away 10 years ago today in Florida, a few days after having a massive stroke. The “Big Man” was 69 years old.

Clemons grew up in a musical, but also religious Virginia household. His granddad was a Baptist minister, so Gospel music was the dominant one in his childhood home. There was a love of music however, and at age nine, his dad gave him his first saxophone for a gift, and sent Clarence to lessons. He exceled at the alto sax he was given, and later a baritone one when he joined a high school band. However, he also loved sport, and being a “Big” lad – 6’4” and 240 pounds even as a youth – he was a great football player too. This is where the car wreck comes in. He had a tryout arranged with the Dallas Cowboys, and presumably expected to become an NFL player, but he was in an accident the day before. This caused injuries which scuttled the tryout and effectively ended his football days. Plan B, music.

He’d already played a little in a James Brown tribute band by the end of his college days, and in the mid-’60s he started his own band which was popular enough in the bar scene between the Chesapeake Bay and New York. The turning point was a rainy night in 1971. He was playing in one club in Asbury Park, New Jersey while a very young Bruce Springsteen was playing nearby. They had common acquaintances and Clarence knew of Springsteen, so “on a break between sets, I walked over there…I’m a Baptist, remember, so this is the truth!” He told an interviewer he went to the other club, accidentally pulled the screen door off opening it in a storm and “the band was on stage, but were staring at me, framed in the doorway. Maybe that did make Bruce a little nervous, because I just said ‘I want to play in your band!’ and he said “sure, do anything you want.’” The pair soon began jamming together and when Bruce began to tour in 1972, Clarence was an integral part of his backing E Street Band.

The pair became not only musical collaborators, but close friends. “We knew we were the missing links in each other’s lives,” Clemons would say. And of course, they were missing links in each other’s music. Clemons’ sax solos and flourishes added the extra touch to so many Springsteen songs from “Jungleland” to “Thunder Road” to even “The Boss’” Christmas classic “Santa Claus is Coming To Town.” It was indeed one of the touches that elevated Springsteen above so many other classic rock troubadours. “He gave everything he had, every night,” Springsteen said of him.

Outside of the Boss and the E Street Band, Clarence kept busy. He took a few roles acting in movies (one of the “three most important people in the world” in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, for example) and he had his own nightclub in Red bank, New Jersey. Along the way he put out three solo records as well, the most successful being the 1985 release Hero, which included the single “You’re A Friend of Mine”, with Jackson Browne (not to mention Browne’s then girlfriend Daryl Hannah) on it.

Upon his death, Bruce said “Clarence led a wonderful life. He carried within him a love of people, that made them love him. He loved our fans.” Eddie Vedder, hearing of his death played “Better Man” with the chorus changed to “Bigger man” as a tribute to him in a Pearl Jam show that night, and the next day Bon Jovi played a version of “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” as a tribute while pictures of Clarence flashed on the screen behind them. Soon artists as varied as Lady Gaga, the Gaslight Anthem and Jimmy Buffett all performed their own tributes… proving that Clemons was a Big Man in more ways than one.

June 4 – Boss’ Star-spangled Single

It was a “boss” day in rock, 37 years ago. On this day in 1984 Bruce Springsteen rose from the level of respected, decent-selling rock star to international superstar with the release of his 20-million + selling Born in the U.S.A. The album topped charts around the world, went diamond in both his homeland as well as Canada and Australia and kicked off several years of touring in sold out sports stadiums for the New Jersey lad. Fittingly it was the first compact disc Columbia Records manufactured in the U.S.A. They’d been offering them for over a year, but the previous discs had all been made in Asia and imported.

Different people had different favorite songs off it of course and there really wasn’t a dud on the record. The lead single, “Dancing in the Dark” was the biggest-selling one off it but few would argue that the most “iconic” of the dozen songs is the title track. “Born in the U.S.A.” is not only one of the most famous songs Springsteen ever did, it’s one of the most remembered songs of the whole decade. And probably one of the most misunderstood. So what’s its story?

The origins of the song go back to 1981, when “The Boss” was given a movie script entitled “Born in the U.S.A”. Producer Paul Schrader thought Springsteen might want to try his hand at acting and have a role in the movie about a struggling Vietnam War vet. Springsteen passed on that but thought the concept interesting. (The movie would eventually go on to be made under the name Light of Day.) He wrote the original draft of the song, and put down a demo in 1982, during the sessions that ended up with the Nebraska album. As with the rest of that album, it was a much less bombastic, more acoustic version than what we ended up hearing. It didn’t seem “right” so it was shelved. However, something about the song resonated with him, so he resurrected it with the E Street Band for his next album. He beefed it up and made it anthemic with a rousing Ray Bittan keyboard bombardment to open and thundering Max Weinberg drums, Phil Collins-style gated reverb and all, throughout. Weinberg says its his favorite song he worked on with Bruce, largely because the players were given free rein to improvise their bits around Springsteen’s guitar framework.

While the music perhaps lacked a typical pop melody and structure, the power of it made it an instant anthem. Or at least it did when Springsteen ripped through the lyrics. Now anyone who listens to the song will quickly understand it’s a song of frustration and anger. Anger at the system, anger at the U.S.A. the protagonist feels let him down. He answered their call, went to fight in Vietnam, lost friends there and came back there to no hero’s welcome, but silence and troubles finding a job. Khe Sang that he mentions in the song was in fact a lengthy battle in which 45 000 American troops plus some South Vietnamese fought the Northern Viet Cong for control of a small town. The Americans eventually won, after 274 of their men were killed, 2500 wounded and over a thousand Vietnamese lay dead. Weeks later, the U.S. retreated and gave the village over to the other side. It was typical of the futility of the war that had many diehard patriots at home questioning its worth.

So that’s a pretty downbeat song, right? One might think, but of course, it was over-ridden by Bruce defiantly yelling “Born in the U.S.A., I was born in the U.S.A.” through the chorus. That part millions could get behind apparently. It’d be the perfect Olympic chant. Or slogan for a right-wing politician. Conservative writer George Will heard it, thought the chorus was wonderful and mentioned it to President Reagan, who was running for re-election. Reagan soon began trumpeting its praise : “America’s future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts,” he told a crowd, “In the message of hope so many young Americans admire…New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen (for example)”. Some in the crowd began chanting “born in the U.S.A.”

The lines about the dude losing his brother in Khe Sang and being turned down for a job at the refinery seemed lost on them. It was a message of hope! “This was when the Republicans first mastered the art of co-opting anything and everything that seemed fundamentally American,” the singer later said. Mind you, he admits that “in my songs, the spiritual part, the hope parts are in the chorus,” giving way to the possibility of misunderstanding. The issues came up again more recently when Donald Trump often played the song during campaign rallies despite Springsteen’s objections and referring to Trump as “a flagrant toxic narcissist” and a “threat to democracy.”

In the end, perhaps the song is a perfect reflection of what anybody wants it to be. As the American Quarterly noted, “the nationalist chorus continuously overwhelms the desperation and sacrifice relayed in the verses”.. rather like it does in many of the working class lives depicted by Springsteen songs.

Among the songs fans were Stephen King, who used the line “born down in a dead man’s town” to introduce his creepy novel It, and Lee Iacocca of Chrysler. That company offered The Boss several million dollars to use the chorus in a commercial. He turned them down. Millions of other people liked it as well, needless to say. The song earned him his second gold single at home, where it reached #9 on the charts…his fourth career top 10 hit, but third from the album itself. In Canada it rose to #11, but it seemed to resonate overseas even more. In the UK it got to #5, his highest-charting single to that point, and it went to #1 in Ireland. Maybe Bono wondered if he should have written a song called “Born in Dublin town.”

April 13 – Max A Lucky 7 For Boss & O’Brien

Take a kid from a religious middle class family, stir in a strong work ethic and a love of rock music and if you’re lucky, you might get Max Weinberg. We wish the E Street Band drummer a happy 70th birthday today!

Max grew up on the New Jersey side of New York’s suburbs, living in a happy family which stressed both their Jewish faith and music. His dad was a lawyer, his mom a teacher. But the parents loved music and often took young Max to Broadway shows and Big Band concerts. When he was about five, he saw Elvis on TV, and decided that was what he wanted. Only, unlike so many of his peers, he didn’t want to be Elvis – he wanted to be the drummer! “I think anybody who wanted to develop a life in rock’n’roll music had a ‘moment’. (Seeing Elvis) was my moment,” he’d later say.

His dad bought him a conga drum, which he loved (and still has) and soon bought him a child’s drum set. At his synagogue, the family knew a bandleader who performed at parties and events; he took young Max along with him and he was actually playing at Bar Mitvahs before he was seven. Little Max, looking natty in his suit, was quite the hit. Before he’d hit puberty, he’d become quite good and also decided that he liked the drumming of Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich but the showmanship and flair of Liberace and Sammy Davis Jr. He seemed destined for a life on stage – which he did get, but not before seeing the Beatles and being heavily influenced by Ringo, and joining a few run-of-the-mill New Jersey bar bands. He went off to university and his music career might have stalled at a the level of playing a few local Bar Mitvahs had he not seen (and replied) to an ad in the Village Voice. Someone wanting a drummer for a rock band, “No Ginger Bakers” – aka no showoffs prone to long solos – need apply. That someone was Bruce Springsteen, and Max auditioned for The Boss in August, 1974. He knew Bruce’s song “Sandy” and played that at the audition. By September, he’d quit college and was playing shows as a member of the E Street Band. He was being paid $110 a week at the time (in range of $600 now), not bad for a backup musician but not quite the white collar income his parents probably had dreamed of for their son. Of course, that would change along with the fortunes of his “Boss.”

Continue reading “April 13 – Max A Lucky 7 For Boss & O’Brien”

March 31 – Did The Boss Still Have Lucky Touch In ’90s?

Even musical greats sometimes make missteps, often because they forget simple lessons. Take Bruce Springsteen for instance. Through the second half of the ’70s and ’80s, “The Boss” could do no wrong in the eyes of his fans and most critics, but by the ’90s he’d perhaps forgotten a bit of what got him to that place and the simple lesson “less is more.” Whatever the reason, on this day in 1992 he put out his ninth and tenth studio albums, Lucky Town and Human Touch.

While it might seem like an idea of not knowing how to self-edit, or worse, a blatant money grab, there are caveats. For instance, Guns’n’Roses had done the same thing a year earlier, to great fanfare with their Use Your Illusion, I and II, which were sold separately. And it turns out, at one point in Springsteen’s mind, these two were going to be different records coming out months or even years apart. Going back to 1989, Springsteen had dissolved the E Street Band (or at least separated himself from their services) He began working on one solo record, which would become Human Touch. That one dragged on and he had an idea for a second record, a somewhat more acoustic and personal one, and began recording tracks for that, the one which would be Lucky Town. Eventually both were finished and Columbia decided to release them simultaneously, even confusing the matter somewhat by including songs from both albums on some singles they put out.

Anyway, after about five years since his last new work (Tunnel of Love), fans had something to cheer… lots of new Bruce songs. Human Touch had 14 songs, and ran almost an hour while Lucky Town was a more conventional, 10 song, 39 minute affair. And ever-energetic, The Boss would record 15 or more extra tracks through the sessions, some of which found their way out later on compilation albums or b-sides. Although he was officially done with the E Street Band, keyboardist Roy Bittan stayed around to play on several tracks, co-write two of the Human Touch songs (“Roll of the Dice” and “Real World”) and help produce both records. So too did Bruce’s wife, Patti Scialfa who can be heard with background vocals on both. A host of other session musicians were brought in for the mostly L.A.-sessions, including Randy Jackson on bass and Toto’s Jeff Porcaro on drums for Human Touch, one of the last albums he worked on before dying in summer ’92.

While generally Human Touch was seen as radio-friendly pop and Lucky Town a grittier, more meaningful record, it was a bit of a simplification. Both records were varied as one had come to expect from a Springsteen record. Among the better-received album cuts were “The Big Muddy” and “Lucky Town” from that album and “I Wish I Were Blind” with Righteous Brother Bobby Hatfield adding harmonies from Human Touch. Singles popped off both; Human Touch‘s title track and state-of-TV diatribe “57 Channels”; “Better Days” and “Leap of Faith” from Lucky Town.

Critics were, and largely remain, underwhelmed and in agreement that culling some of the weak tracks and combining the rest into one record would have been a better idea. At the time, the Chicago Tribune rated them as a low 2-stars, while Rolling Stone enigmatically reviewed them together and gave it 4.5-stars. Enigmatic because the actual review didn’t seem all that fond of the music. They suggested, not uniquely, “the two would have been better-realized by a single, more carefully shaped collection.” Entertainment Weekly likewise reviewed them together, giving the pair a “B”, but griping “work too hard at something and it starts to sound forced. Case in point, Bruce Springsteen” who they figured was “trying to convince himself he is still that same rock & roll party animal and boardwalk poet. But he simply isn’t.” They summed it up by saying he was “just punching the clock.” Years later, allmusic would give Lucky Town a 3-star rating, and Human Touch only 2, the lowest of any of his works til then. They considered both “uninspired” and suggested Human Touch was “the first Bruce Springsteen album to consist entirely of” generic, throwaway pop.

Did the diehard fans agree? Well, it’s debatable. Neither flopped but then again, neither did anything much to match the past glories of albums like The River or Born in the USA at the market or on radio. Human Touch did slightly better of the two, but the similar sales marks suggest people who bought one bought the other as well. Human Touch hit #2 in the States and Canada, but was a surprise #1 in the UK. Lucky Town was #3 in North America and #2 in Britain. Both went platinum at home, gold in the UK and double-platinum in Canada, where they did best per capita. Of the singles, “Human Touch” was the best-received, getting to #16 in the U.S., but being a #2 mainstream rock hit and a #1 in Norway of all places.

All in all the ’90s weren’t The Boss’ decade, commercially at least. He wouldn’t get back to the top and multi-platinum sales until he’d reunited with the E Street Band for 2002’s The Rising.

February 24 – Springsteen Helped Pointers Get Hot

For the second time in two years, Bruce Springsteen saw one of his songs jump high into the Billboard top 10 on this day in 1979. And like the first time, it wasn’t recorded by him! Almost two years to the day since Manfred Mann hit the top with “Blinded by the Light”, the Pointer Sisters scored the biggest hit of their career to that point with their take on Bruce’s song “Fire”. It hit #2 on this day 40 years ago.

Springsteen had written the song after seeing an Elvis concert and recorded it with Darkness on the Edge of Town. He liked it well enough but felt it didn’t fit into that album, so shelved it. Somehow producer Richard Perry (of Nilsson’s “Without You” fame) heard it and showed it to Oakland girl group the Pointer Sisters.

The Pointers had been around all decade long, starting as a duo of Bonnie and June, then known as Pointers a Pair, who’d sung backup for the likes of Boz Scaggs and Grace Slick. They added in two more sisters, Anita and Ruth, changed to their current moniker and got signed onto Atlantic Records. Although they had some decent success on R&B charts in the ’70s, they’d not done a whole lot on mainstream radio. They decided to change that with their late-’78 album Pure Energy. They brought in Perry to produce it, musicians including Randy Bachman, Waddy Wachtel, Toto’s David Paich (who plays keyboards on this single) and Jeff Porcaro, Elton John’s guitarist Davey Johnstone among others to work on it and covered songs like Steely Dan’s “Dirty Work”, Loggins & Messina’s “Angry Eyes”, Fleetwood Mac’s “Hypnotized”… and the Springsteen one.

It worked well. The album became their third to go gold at home, and broke through to the north in Canada, going platinum, but the real difference was this hit. The smoldering single that critic Christine Arnold notes “might well have been done by the Ronettes in the ’60s” got to #2 in the U.S., #3 in Canada (where they’d not been in the top 30 before) and topped New Zealand charts. As Anita says, it “became our first gold single…one song is played over and over all over the world. It really became a major hit for us and made a total difference in our careers.”

Indeed it did. they’d go on to notch six more top 10 singles in the ’80s with songs like “Slow Hand” and “I’m So Excited”, although that #1 rank remained elusive to them.

The Pointers continue on to this day as a multi-generational act with Ruth and Anita plus Ruth’s daughter Issa and granddaughter Sadako. As for Springsteen, he’s done not too badly himself since then! And oh, the public finally did get to hear him do it himself – after being a staple of his live show for years, he released a live version of it as a single in 1987, although it only got to #46 on the charts.

December 7 – Tom ‘Waits’ For A Hit…But Not Respect…

…that he has. One of entertainment’s more unique stars was born this day in 1949 in California. Happy 71st birthday, Tom Waits! Not all that many people have his records, but his gravelly, smoky voice is well known and songs he’s written (especially “Downtown Train”, recorded by Rod Stewart and to a lesser extent “Jersey Girl”, covered appropriately enough by Bruce Springsteen) are familiar to most.

Waits put out his first record in 1973 and has since put out 16 studio albums, dabbling in all sorts of musical styles – he’s utilized bagpipes on some of his records and performed at the Bridge School Benefit with the Krosnos Quartet, a classical ensemble. Few have been hits – four have gone gold in the UK, his 1999 double-album Mule Variations was a surprise #1 hit in Norway and did get him a gold disc at home. But his intense writing and unique voice have won him a world of respect… and plenty of friends in the entertainment world. Rolling Stone rank him as the 82nd greatest singer of all-time, saying he’s influenced artists ranging from James Hetfield of Metallica to Modest Mouse with his voice, a “jazzy croon lightly covered in gravel.” Onetime girlfriend of his Rickie Lee Jones describes it as “a little bit of James Brown and a whole lot of Louis Armstrong.”

Besides his own records, he’s worked on tribute albums ranging from the Ramones to Blind Willie Johnson and he’s appeared on records from artists like Muse, Bonnie Raitt and even the Rolling Stones. When not writing or singing about people on the outskirts of society, he often portrays them – he’s been in dozens of films including the Outsiders, Rumblefish and a major role as a thinly-disguised devil in the Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. Besides Jones, he’s also dated Bette Midler but for the most part, he rather keeps his own life to himself. All the better for us to use our own imaginations for.. or “imaginariums.”

November 22 – Little Steven, Big Talent, Turns 70

Every great boss needs some fine workers answering to him. So today we salute one of “the Boss” Bruce Springsteen’s finest, Steve Van Zandt. “Little Steven” turns 70 today! Guitarist, singer, writer, activist, actor, producer, radio executive… Van Zandt isn’t ready to be put out to pasture anytime soon.

Although he was born in Massachusetts, his family had moved to New Jersey when Steve was truly “little”. Like so many other kids of the ’60s, he was inspired by seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and soon after that formed his first band, in high school. He met Springsteen in a club watching a band when he was around 16 or so. Although he found a little success in his role with Jersey band Southside Johnny & the Asbury Dukes, his big break was getting back together with his friend “The Boss” in 1975. He helped Bruce come up with the guitar sound for “Born to Run”, and joined the E Street Band – Bruce’s backing musicians – to tour for the Born to Run album in ’75-76. He quickly took the role of being the main lead guitarist, and at times adding some horn bits, and by 1980 helped produce The River.

While working with Bruce much of the time since then, Steve and his Hawaiian shirts and bandanas ventured into solo work in the ’80s, with limited success at home despite putting out seven studio albums. He did have fleeting success in Scandinavia in the ’80s, with his Voice of America album being a top 10 hit there as was the single “Out of the Darkness.” Which perhaps explains the fact that he recently co-wrote and starred in the Netflix series Lilehammer, a show set in Norway about an aging Mafia boss in hiding. Which kind of takes up where The Sopranos left off; he had an ongoing role in that show as Jersey strip club owner Silvio. And yes, his wife in that one, Maureen Santoro, is his real-life wife. Springsteen was his best man at the wedding.

If not working with Springsteen, promoting his own music or acting as a mafiaoso, Van Zandt’s kept busy at times touring with another New Jersey star, Bon Jovi, producing Gary US Bonds albums and playing with Lone Justice and Jackson Browne from time to time. Not to mention his ongoing syndicated radio show, Little Steven’s Underground Garage, which he began in 2002. That helped him start two different satellite radio stations on Sirius. And much like his best man, he has a conscience too. Steven started the ’80s act Artists United Against Apartheid, which put out the single “Sun City” to protest South African racial policies and now runs a non-profit called Teach Rock, which helps educate kids and put music in context of other studies.

Whew! We hope he finds time to blow out the candles on that cake today… and continues to enjoy a few more “Glory Days.”

October 17 – Must’ve Been The Mississippi…This River Was Big

Perhaps Bruce Springsteen proved he really was “The Boss” at Columbia Records about four decades back. He had an album, entitled The Ties that Bind sent to them for final mixing, with an eye to it being on the shelves for Christmas 1979 shoppers. Then he pulled the plug on it. “The songs lacked that kind of unity and conceptual intensity I like,” he explained. So he and his E Street Band went back to the New York City studios again for much of the first half of the next year, recording 50 tunes in total, including some from that ’79 recording and some which had been outtakes from the Darkness on the Edge of Town sessions in ’78. They whittled that down to the best 20 tracks and 83 minutes, and the result was his double-album The River, which came out this day in 1980.

Twenty songs gives a lot of space to work with, and Springsteen made a conscious decision to try and not get stuck in a rut on the album, mixing tempos and tones well to reflect “life had paradoxes – a lot of them. You’ve got to live with them.” The songs varied in sound but were pretty consistent in quality, and many came to be staples of his catalog in later years : “Hungry Heart”, the title track, “Fade Away”, “Indpendence Day”, “Cadillac Ranch” . He says the title track, “The River” was written for his brother-in-law who’d just lost his construction job and was going through tough times. Not only did it work as “a record that was a sort of gateway to my future writing,” it also set him on the direct path to his next album, Nebraska. Curiously, the big hit on the album, “Hungry Heart”, was one he wrote with an eye on passing it along to the Ramones to record. His manager Jon Landau wisely suggested he keep it and record it himself.

Critics loved it then, and now, for the most part. At the time it was released, New York’s Village Voice rated it “A-” and weeks later picked it as the second-best record of ’80. Rolling Stone graded it 5-stars, saying it was “a rock & roll milestone…filled with an uncommon common sense and intelligence that could only have come from an exceptionally warm-hearted graduate of the Street of Hard Knocks.” About two decades later, the same magazine would pick it as the 250th greatest album of all-time (though only sixth best of his albums), saying he and the E Street Band “tear up bar band R&B rockabilly, country and their own brand of epic rock on it.” Even Britain’s Q gave it a 5-star grade in a country which isn’t as fawning over Bruce as we tend to be here.

The wait was worthwhile for Columbia. The double album was his biggest to that point, hitting #1 in the U.S. and Canada, and #2 in the UK. In France, it ended up being the fourth biggest seller of the year. And while “The River” gave him his first top 40 single in Britain, “Hungry Heart” made it higher than any of his previous singles had over here – #5 in both the States and Canada.

Needless to say, the success of this album helped him have the clout to put out the less-commercial and more downbeat Nebraska two years later, which in turn led to the counter-balancing effect of the multi-million selling Born in the U.S.A. which established him as the public’s choice as their favorite American rock singer, as well as the critics.

October 11 – Careers Got Rolling 45 Years Back

Two big songs about going somewhere got moving on this day in 1975. Both “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen and “Low Rider” by War debuted on the Billboard top 40 that day.

Of the two, perhaps surprisingly to some, “Low Rider” was the bigger hit back in the day. When it got to #7, it became the band’s sixth top 10 single at home and it also became the first one to make any dent at all at the British charts (going to #12 there.) The song, which spent 11 weeks on the top 40, was largely the work of the band’s drummer, Harold Brown who was an enthusiast of the cars and culture known as “Low Riders.” That would be, for the uninitiated, the cars that run low to the ground and usually have hydraulics installed to let them bounce up and down, perhaps best immortalized by Pedro’s cousins in Napoleon Dynamite.

“We’d chop down our springs with torches, and this would lower the car a few inches,” Brown remembers. “You also had the hot rodders which were a different breed racing around.”

The song remains a radio staple to this day and has been adopted by comedian George Lopez as his personal theme, using it on two different TV shows he’s been in and as his intro for stand-up routines.

Low riders may have been hot in L.A. but one might guess Bruce Springsteen, out east coast, would like the hot rods better. He was just coming to the public’s notice in 1975 and was his first radio hit. It only ran up to #23 in the States and spent a sparse five weeks on the Casey Kasem countdown (remarkably it did best in Sweden at the time) but it still was his biggest hit of the ’70s in his homeland and more importantly, opened ears to his music and doors for him. The album of the same name got to #3 on the charts, thanks to the single and magazine covers on Time and Newsweek and has slowly crawled to 6X platinum status. Journalist Bruno MacDonald notes Springsteen tinkered with the song a number of times and tried out several versions in his stage show before recording it – and when he finally did that “it was as if the famous Spector Wall of Sound had been rebuilt.”

Springsteen is still at it, 45 years on just releasing a new song, “Letter to You” this fall. Likewise, War is technically still active, although less obviously so. They have only put out one set of new songs (as an add-on to a greatest hits album) this century and have only one original member, keyboardist Leroy Jordan.

September 23 – A ‘Boss’ Birthday

“God help Bruce Springsteen when they decide he’s no longer God. They’ll turn on him and I hope he survives it.” – John Lennon

Well, Lennon knew a thing or two about how quickly reputations could be made and destroyed. Public opinion may have turned his way again, unfortunately he wasn’t alive to see it. Springsteen may never have been quite as revered as the Beatles were in the ’60s, but neither has he seen the masses turn against him like Lennon predicted. It got me thinking about today’s Birthday Boy though. Bruce Springsteen turns 71 today. Hopefully it will be a happy one for “the Boss.” I’m sure many fans out there will be digging out the old vinyl and reliving his “Glory Days.”

That Lennon quote caught my eye, so I figured why not look at Bruce through some other people’s eyes to celebrate him. For instance : “What’s in my I-pod? Well, certainly Bruce Springsteen” – potential First Lady Jill Biden.

Sting says “my friends are Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen. We’re singing about mortality, getting older. It’s an interesting time.” It’s been so long it now seems hard to remember when those two weren’t household names, or that they both began scoring radio hits around the same time a little over 40 years ago.

“My life changed because Bruce Springsteen got a mic in front of me,” says Jimmy Iovine, co-founder of Interscope Records, a label known primarily for un-Boss-like rap music.

“I like movies and radio, Bruce Springsteen and New Jersey. That’s what I like,” declares Brian Fallon of the Gaslight Anthem (one of the under-rated rock bands of the past decade we might add.)

“A lot of political music can be rather pedantic and corny, but when it’s done right like Bruce Springsteen or Jackson Browne, there’s nothing better,” declared Bonnie Raitt.

Speaking of Browne, he wrote in Rolling Stone ”in many ways, Bruce Springsteen is the embodiment of rock & roll. He’s got his feet planted on either side of that great divide between rebellion and redemption.”

“I would say from an all-around point of view, Bruce Springsteen is one of the two great poet lords of America. Bob Dylan (the other); the two of them.” one of ‘The Boss’s” first bosses, Clive Davis, president of Columbia Records when Bruce was starting out.

“Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen. These are soul guys. Bruce doesn’t sing like Otis Redding, but he sings with White soul. He’s singing and writing from the bottom of his gut.” – Robin Thicke.

And one last great quote: “the greatest challenge of adulthood is holding onto your idealism after you lose your innocence.” Yep, that one is from Bruce himself. Happily he seems to have done that.