Born in Chicago and raised outside of Washington, DC, the guitarist Springsteen introduces onstage as "the great Nils Lofgren" actually grew up studying the accordion, beginning at age five, and playing classical and jazz before finding himself drawn to rock & roll at, satisfyingly enough, a Jimi Hendrix concert. Both a bandleader—he formed his first band, Grin, in 1968 at the age of 15—and a multi-instrumentalist of great repute, Lofgren was pulled from relative obscurity at 17 years old when he met Neil Young at a local DC gig and was invited to California, where he ended up contributing guitar and piano work alongside Young’s backing band Crazy Horse on the 1970 classic After the Gold Rush.
In 1984, following the departure of Steven Van Zandt, Lofgren joined the E Street Band just prior to the launch of the enormous, globetrotting Born in the U.S.A. Tour. Throughout the historic 156-date marathon, Lofgren became known not only for his scorching guitar work, but also his gift for stage-worthy acrobatics and theatrics—which makes sense, as in high school Lofgren had been a competitive gymnast. Lofgren kept up both roles for the Tunnel of Love Express tour in 1988.
In the 1990s, during the hiatus of the E Street Band, Lofgren performed two rounds of duty with Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band and continued to release a number of well-received albums under his own name (including 1991’s Silver Lining, which featured a duet with Springsteen on “Valentine”). When the E Street Band reconvened in 1999, Springsteen brought both Van Zandt and Lofgren back into the fold. Almost twenty-five years later, this remains the lineup.
Still releasing solo albums between E Street Band tours, Lofgren also keeps learning new instruments, including pedal steel guitar—and continued his acrobatics as long as he could, evidenced by his high-flying “Because the Night” solo on the Magic tour. In 2018, he rejoined Crazy Horse and played on three Neil Young albums between 2019 and 2022 and on 2023’s All Roads Lead Home, the first Crazy Horse studio album in fourteen years. Face the Music, a nine-CD/one-DVD box set retrospective of Lofgren’s expansive career, came out in 2014, the same year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the E Street Band. In 2017, the longtime Scottsdale resident was inducted into the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame.