Happy Birthday to “The Boss” — Bruce Springsteen — who turns 71 today (September 23rd)!!! Coming on October 23rd is Springsteen's latest album with the E Street Band, titled Letter To You. The 12-track collection is Springsteen's 20th studio album, and was recorded at his home studio in New Jersey. The set's release coincides with the 40th anniversary of the classic double album The River — which was released on October 17th, 1980.
Springsteen said of the new album in the official announcement, “I love the emotional nature of Letter To You. And I love the sound of the E Street Band playing completely live in the studio, in a way we’ve never done before, and with no overdubs. We made the album in only five days, and it turned out to be one of the greatest recording experiences I’ve ever had.”
Letter To You includes nine recently written Springsteen songs — alongside new recordings of three of his legendary — but previously unreleased — compositions from the early-1970's: “Janey Needs A Shooter,” “Song For The Orphans,” and the iconic “If I Was The Priest.”
Springsteen's latest studio set, Western Stars, was released on June 14th, 2019 and peaked at Number One in the UK and entered the Billboard 200 at Number Two. The collection, which is his 19th studio set, was his seventh to not feature the E Street Band. The massive success of Springsteen On Broadway did not carry over to the opening weekend for “The Boss's” big screen concert film featuring a live performance of Western Stars. The Hollywood Reporter posted the film, which dropped on October 25th, took in a paltry $530,000 from 537 theaters over the weekend, with an average of $1,042 per theater. With the addition of the two nights the movie played via Fathom Events, all told, Western Stars stiffed, earning only $1 million at the box office. The film's soundtrack, Western Stars — Songs From The Film, was issued concurrently and stalled at 141 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
Bruce Springsteen's Tony-award winning show Springsteen On Broadway premiered on Netflix in December 2018, coinciding with the production's 236th and final show at Manhattan's Walter Kerr Theatre. Springsteen On Broadway was based on his best-selling autobiography Born To Run and features a 14-song set featuring Springsteen telling his personal narrative with his acoustic guitar and piano. The show featured a special two-song appearance by his wife and E Street Band member Patti Scialfa.
In 2014 Springsteen scored his 11th career Number One album with High Hopes. The collection was released on January 14th and sold 99,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Having previously tied with Elvis Presley — who also had 10 LP chart-toppers — for the third most Number One albums, Springsteen has now bumped “The King” to fourth place, and now sits behind Jay-Z, who has 13 Number One albums, and the Beatles who lead the way with 19 albums having hit the top spot. In April 2014, Springsteen followed the set up with American Beauty, a four-song EP originally released as a vinyl-only release as part of Record Store Day.
Bruce Springsteen says that there's always been a form of interactive journalism in his songs, in which his fans can experience situations that differ from their lives first hand: “My job was always to put you in somebody else's shoes and have you walk a while in those shoes. You're out there, and you feel what's in the air out there, and you feel what's on people's minds. People are looking for ways to try to get a handle and make sense of what's happening.”
Springsteen, who's released four acoustically-based solo albums over the years, admits that it's a different process writing for himself versus writing for an E Street Band project: “There's just something — it's a different thought process when I think about writing for that group of musicians, and it tends. . . I think I tend to be more direct in some ways, y'know? I expand, maybe, my scope in some fashion. It's something just about what the band is after all these years that makes me think a little bit differently, so I'm, I'm excited about doing that.”
He says that he still takes pride in the fact that since the band's reformation in 1999, they've consistently played to the top of their — or any other band's — game: “It's the long, long ride that it's all about. It's that I've had these guys and these ladies at my side and we've made it this far, and that we're here to do it. It's the consistency. . . Professionalism is alive and well, we hope. We just want to carry on and give some people some smiles and some inspiration.”
Steve Van Zandt says that Springsteen and the band are just as committed to each other and their fans today as they were upon forming: “We are an ongoing concern here, still creating things. Bruce is still writing, y'know, fantastic things and vital things and he's very, very much inspired and motivated to continue doing things as we have all along. We don't go onstage with a different attitude. We're the same as we were when we were 25. It's great, it's a tribute to our audience that they really support that.”
Bassist Garry Tallent remains the longest surviving member of the original E Street Band still making music with Springsteen. He recalled how he came into “The Boss'” employ: “He had just broken up Steel Mill, which was a four-piece, Led Zeppelin-based kind of a band, and wanted to expand the band and go into a more R&B direction. And I came in — I was working with (keyboardist) Dave Sancious in another band, and we start of came in together. And that as about. . . (laughs) that was the story.”
Shortly before his death in 2008, E Street Band co-founder and organist Danny Federici explained that Springsteen was nothing if not his own man: “Bruce is Bruce. He does what he wants, when he wants it, and he changes his mind all the time.”
Max Weinberg began drumming for Springsteen in 1974 and rates it far above any other musical experiences he's ever had: “Well, there's only one Bruce Springsteen, and what he does is singular and unique. And as a member of his band, I got to see that up close, and most of the time from behind. But it's so much fun to play with Bruce and the E Street Band, you have no idea. For me, as a drummer, as a young kid growing up, playing with Bruce all those years, and the band, it was every little kid's dream come true for me.”
Back in 2007, when Patti Scialfa was heading out on the road with the E Street Band in support of “The Boss'” Magic album, we asked if her and Bruce's kids were used to having parents whose “office” is out on the road: “Yeah, of course. We've been touring since they were young, and when they were born they were always out on the road, now they have a pretty big life of their own and school — so they don't like to leave school now. And sometimes I can drag them out on a weekend. They don't want to be on the road right now. In the summer they like the road, 'cause they can bring a friend and they're free. But usually they miss a lot of schoolwork and they don't like that. And then they have their own lives and their own friends. So, we're home every three days.”
By the time Springsteen finally hit the studio in June 1977 to record Darkness On The Edge Of Town following a particularly vicious lawsuit with his original manager, producer, and publisher Mike Appel, Springsteen had a backlog of 70 songs — which included both the Darkness album — as well as the album he would've recorded directly after Born To Run. Manager/producer Jon Landau says that as the sessions progressed, Springsteen discarded anything resembling an overt pop hit: “The two biggest songs that were written for the Darkness album and were recorded by us; 'Fire' and 'Because The Night' didn't make it onto the album. One thing about Bruce, is if he thought something was going to be a hit, and he didn't want to be represented by that hit, he'd just leave them off that record.”
Keyboardist Roy Bittan first joined the E Street Band in 1974 and was the only member to tour with him during his 1992/1993 world tour with “the other band.” He says that he's amazed at what Springsteen has been able to accomplish over the years: “I think he had tremendous pressures on him early in his career, he had a lot of trouble early in his career. Y'know, he had that terrible lawsuit that went down. So I think, y'know, he's come through a lot and he's, he's a survivor.”
In 1999 Bono inducted Springsteen into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and paid tribute to “The Boss” both as an artist and as a man: “For me and the rest of the 'U2-ers,' it wasn't just the way he described the world, it was the way he negotiated it. It was a map, a book of instructions of how to be in the business but not of it. Generous is a word you could us to describe the way he treated us. Decency is another, but these words can box you in. I remember when Bruce was headlining Amnesty International's tour for prisoners of conscience, I remember thinking, 'Wow, if ever there was a prisoner of conscience, it's Bruce Springsteen.' Integrity can be a yoke, a pain in the ass, when your songs are taking you to a part of town people don't expect to see you.”
Bruce Springsteen prides himself that throughout his career — be it on the stage or in the studio — the thread of where he comes from is still fully evident and ringing true: “My heroes, a lot of my heroes, the people that came before me lose something when they lost a little sense of — I hate to say their 'roots' — 'cause you can go anyplace and you can take it with you anywhere you go. It's not, it's not necessarily being in a physical place — although that may help somewhat. But it's just that sense of your own history and what your initial motivations were. What the point was in the beginning.”
At the premiere of his latest concert film, Western Stars, Springsteen explained to the crowd at the Toronto International Film Festival that his recent autobiography, Broadway show, and now the Western Stars movie are all connected and helped inform the following project: “Maybe it's part of the act of gettin' older, but the book came very organically, and then, from the book, the play came, and really, from the play, this, sort of, is an extension of some of the tying up of philosophical threads that I've been working on my whole life. I mean, like I say at the beginning of the picture, there's two sides to the American character; there's the solitary side and the side that years for connection and community. That's just been a lifetime trip for me. And trying to get from one to the other. How to reconcile those two things.”