Bruce Springsteen began his career by performing on the New Jersey bar circuit while gathering his legendary E Street Band. Born to Run, his breakthrough album from 1975, combined arena rock with human-sized themes of working-class America.
Springsteen is one of the most successful performers of all time, having won scores of prizes, including 20 Grammys, and selling over 65 million albums in the United States alone. The artist, who is also recognized for his left-wing political concerns, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2016.
Bruce Springsteen was born on September 23, 1949, in Long Branch, New Jersey, and grew up in a working-class family in Freehold Borough. Doug Springsteen, his father, struggled to find a permanent job and worked as a bus driver, millworker, and jail guard at various times. Adele, Bruce’s mother, had a more consistent salary as a secretary in a nearby insurance agency.
Springsteen had a strained connection with his father. “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 & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, “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 became interested in rock ‘n’ roll after seeing Elvis Presley perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. “[Elvis] was as big as the whole country itself,” Springsteen later recalled, “as big as the whole dream.” He was only the essence of it, and he was in mortal war with it. Nothing will ever be able to replace that guy.” Springsteen’s mother borrowed money to purchase him a $60 Kent guitar for his 16th birthday, and he hasn’t stopped playing it since.
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.
Springsteen, then 18, was recruited for military service in the Vietnam War in 1967. But, as he later told Rolling Stone magazine, his main thought on the way to his induction was “I ain’t going.” Springsteen failed his physical, owing largely to his “crazy” behavior and a concussion sustained in a motorbike accident. Springsteen’s 4-F rating (unfit for military duty) allowed him to avoid going to Vietnam and pursue music full-time.
“The Boss” and the E Street Band
By the late 1960s, Springsteen was spending most of his time in Asbury Park, New Jersey, where he was forming his unique style and introducing listeners to the gravelly baritone voice that would eventually become famous. It was there that he first met the members of his E Street Band. Around this period, Springsteen gained the moniker “The Boss,” since he had a tendency of collecting money collected during gigs and then distributing it equitably among his musicians.
The E-Street Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2014.
Albums and Songs
According to the University of Idaho, Springsteen’s music is typically identified with the “heartland rock” genre, which examines themes of loneliness in the working-class populace. Similar artists include John Mellencamp, Tom Petty, and Bob Seger.
With the publication of Letter to You in 2020, Springsteen became the only musician to have a top-five album in six separate decades, demonstrating his enduring popularity.
Throughout his career, Springsteen has received 15 platinum-certified and two diamond-certified albums, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Statistically, the most successful album is 1984’s Born in the U.S.A., which sold over 17 million copies and has iconic songs such as “Cover Me,” “Glory Days,” “Dancing in the Dark,” and the title tune. Other best-selling albums include Born to Run (1975), The River (1980), and the 1986 compilation Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band Live 1975-85.
Springsteen has 12 songs that have charted in the top ten on Billboard, including “Hungry Heart,” “I’m on Fire,” “Tunnel of Love,” and “My Hometown.” Surprisingly, none of them ever made it to the top rank. “Dancing in the Dark,” which peaked at No. 2 in 1984, came the closest.
Springsteen on Broadway
Springsteen made his Broadway debut in Springsteen on Broadway in 2017. The solo performance, held at the Walter Kerr Theatre, included the artist playing some of his classics and sharing stories about his influences and formative years. Springsteen closed out his act at the conclusion of the year after earning a special Tony Award in June 2018, presented by Billy Joel.
The next summer, Springsteen’s music was featured in the film Blinded by the Light, which is about a British youngster of Pakistani heritage who is inspired by The Boss’s working-class yearnings. Springsteen showed his appreciation for the film after a screening, telling director Gurinder Chadha, “Thank you for looking after me so beautifully.”
Marriages and Children
Springsteen met and married actress Julianne Phillips in 1985, following the whirlwind of commercial success that followed Born in the U.S.A. Springsteen’s marriage swiftly fell apart, and he began an affair with E Street Band backing vocalist Patti Scialfa, who shared his working-class New Jersey upbringing. In 1989, Phillips filed for divorce.
Springsteen moved in with Scialfa and they had two children together, a son called Evan and a daughter named Jessica, before marrying in 1991. Samuel, their third and youngest son, was born in 1994.
Jessica is a professional equestrian who began riding horses at the age of five on her family’s farm in Colts Neck Township, New Jersey. She competed for Team USA in the 2020 Olympics, which were postponed due to the COVID-19 epidemic, and won a silver medal in the team jumping competition.
Samuel, a firefighter in Jersey City, New Jersey, and his girlfriend welcomed a daughter, Lily Harper Springsteen, in 2022, becoming Bruce and Patti’s first grandparents.
Springsteen’s liberal politics became more visible as he became a vocal supporter of Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama in 2008. When Obama was elected, “The Rising” was the first song played at his victory party, and he went on to start the concert at Obama’s inaugural celebration.
Honoring Springsteen at the Kennedy Center in 2009, Obama said, “I may be the President, but he is The Boss.” Springsteen campaigned for Obama’s reelection in 2012, and the president later awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. Springsteen was also chosen to perform during a virtual celebration of Joe Biden‘s presidential inauguration in 2021.
Springsteen’s entire net worth is estimated to be around $650 million as of September 2023, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
Springsteen’s net worth increased significantly in December 2021, when he sold his music archive to Sony for an estimated $550 million—including separate payments for his recorded material and composition rights. Sony controls the Columbia record label, for which the singer has worked his entire career.