This Day in Music History: 1949, Bruce Springsteen is Born
Springsteen had been inspired to take up music at the age of seven after seeing Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956 and growing up hearing fellow New Jersey singer, Frank Sinatra, on the radio. Sinatra also inspired Springsteen’s style of songwriting, which was developed in his youth after his mother bought him his first guitar for $18. 1964 was also important for Springsteen, having seen The Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Thereafter he started playing for audiences, first at a trailer park on New Jersey Route 34 and then at a local Elks Lodge. In 1965, Springsteen’s mother took out a loan to buy her 16-year-old son a $60 Kent guitar, an act he subsequently memorialized in his song “The Wish”.
Bruce Springsteen draws on many musical influences from the reservoir of traditional American popular music, folk, blues and country. From the beginning, rock and roll has been a dominant influence and Springsteen’s musical and lyrical evocations, as well as public tributes, of artists such as Dylan, Presley, Roy Orbison, Gary “U.S.” Bonds, and many others helped to rekindle interest in their music. Springsteen’s other preferred musical style is American folk, evident on his debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, New Jersey, and more strongly on Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad. Springsteen songs such as “This Hard Land” demonstrate the lyrical and musical influence of Woody Guthrie.
Elements of Latin American music, jazz, soul, and funk influences can be heard on Springsteen’s second album, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle; the song “New York City Serenade” is even reminiscent of the music of George Gershwin. These two records prominently featured pianist David Sancious, who left the band shortly into the recording of Springsteen’s third album, Born To Run. This album, however, also emphasized the piano, the responsibility now of Roy Bittan.
Springsteen’s recordings have included both commercially accessible rock albums and more somber folk-oriented works. His most successful studio albums, Born in the U.S.A. and Born to Run, showcase a talent for finding grandeur in the struggles of daily American life; he has sold more than 64 million albums in the United States and more than 120 million records worldwide, making him one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time. He has earned numerous awards for his work, including 20 Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes and an Academy Award as well as being inducted into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.