Since rising to prominence in the 1970s, Bruce Springsteen has earned a place among the rock and roll elite as a dynamic performer and astute lyricist. Alongside his E Street Band, The Boss continues to captivate audiences worldwide, consistently selling out arena tours. His career has been marked by a series of memorable chapters and pivotal moments.
Springsteen became interested in rock and roll music as a child after seeing Elvis Presley perform on television, but his clear-cut ambition took shape after hearing the Fab Four from Liverpool. “I saw Elvis on TV, and when I first saw Elvis, I was nine, but I was a little young, tried to play the guitar, but it didn’t work out, I put it away,” Springsteen once told Rolling Stone. “The keeper was in 1964, ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ on South Street with my mother driving.”
“I immediately demanded that she let me out; I ran to the bowling alley, ran down a long neon-lit aisle, down the alley into the bowling alley,” he continued. “Ran to the phone booth, got in the phone booth, and immediately called my girl and asked, ‘Have you heard this band called The Beatles?’ After that, it was nothing but rock ‘n’ roll and guitars.”
This could be seen as the first of Springsteen’s turning points, but the road to success would be littered with hurdles. While Springsteen’s first two albums of 1973, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, were critically favoured, they failed to make a commercial breakthrough.
Columbia decided to give Springsteen a generous make-or-break recording budget for his third album, which was understood to be a last-ditch effort at commercial reception. “So, I was going to have to give it everything I had,” Springsteen recalled of the tense period in an interview with BBC News in 2018. Thankfully, the third album he conjured was Born To Run, his masterpiece and the gateway to a bright future in music.
Over the ensuing decade, Springsteen grew from strength to strength, releasing several more culturally resonant albums. As far as Springsteen was concerned, his songwriting reached a peak with 1982’s Nebraska. Speaking on CBS Sunday Morning in 2023, he said: “If I had to pick out one album and say, ‘This is going to represent you 50 years from now’, I’d pick Nebraska.”
Although Nabraska’s follow-up of 1984, Born in the USA, marked the height of Springsteen’s commercial appeal with seven catchy singles, including ‘I’m on Fire’, ‘Dancing in the Dark’ and its title track, Springsteen saw the release as a wake-up call.
Granted, Born in the USA expanded Springsteen’s global fanbase and lined the pockets handsomely, but he wasn’t so enthused by its artistic appeal. “[The title track] more or less stood by itself,” he once said, reflecting on the album. “The rest of the album contains a group of songs about which I’ve always had some ambivalence.”
“Born in the USA changed my life and gave me my largest audience,” he added. “It forced me to question the way I presented my music and made me think harder about what I was doing.”
After Born in the USA, Springsteen returned with Tunnel of Love in 1987. The album was another commercial and critical success and brandished some of Springsteen’s most absorbing and introspective lyrics.
Listen to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ below.