Springsteen’s autobiography Born To Run was released on September 27, 2016. Over the course of seven years, Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life, bringing to the pages the same honesty, humor, and originality found in his songs.
The book was released with its musical companion Chapter and Verse, a collection of 18 songs chosen by Springsteen that trace his musical history from its earliest days with five previously unreleased tracks including two tracks from The Castiles, featuring a teenaged Springsteen on guitar and vocals.
Capping off the seemingly neverending Wrecking Ball World Tour in late 2013, Springsteen began 2014 with the release of his 18th studio album, High Hopes, earning him the 11th #1 album debut of his career.
On February 8, MusiCares honored Bruce Springsteen as the 2013 MusiCares Person of the Year, celebrating his exceptional artistic achievements as well as his philanthropic work. Proceeds from the event provided essential support for MusiCares, which ensures that music people have a place to turn in times of financial, medical, and personal need.
The event, hosted by The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart, included tribute performances from Elton John, Neil Young, Sting, Eddie Vedder, and Mumford & Sons amongst others, plus a moving acceptance speech from Bruce himself.
Springsteen’s 17th studio album, Wrecking Ball, debuts at #1 in 16 countries, marking his 10th #1 album in the US, led by the first single “We Take Care Of Our Own.” The album focused largely on the American experience following the economic crash of 2008, and would later earn three Grammy nominations and spark the year-and-a-half long Wrecking Ball Tour that saw performances across North and South America, Europe, and Australia.
Or, Part II of the E Street Band’s Magic Tour, featuring the sign-collection set, full-album performances, multiple festival dates, and the scorching debut of Jay Weinberg.
Nearly 40 years before, manager Mike Appel pushed for Bruce Springsteen to play the Super Bowl. At the time, the idea was laughable; soon enough, however, the NFL comes courting Bruce. After Bruce performs at Barack Obama’s inaugural celebration, Appel’s dream becomes a reality, as Springsteen brings his E Street Band to the Super Bowl half-time show. Compressing the excitement of a three-hour E Street Band show into 12 minutes is the challenge, and with a non-stop house party that includes “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” “Born to Run,” the new “Working on a Dream,” and “Glory Days” (as well as an infamous knee-slide), they pull it off.
Springsteen and his new Sessions Band hit the road to support We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, beginning in the birthplace of their sonic gumbo, New Orleans. This post-Hurricane Katrina Jazz Fest performance is an important night for Springsteen: aside from breaking in a new 20-piece band, it has been years since he has really had to prove himself to an audience.
He isn’t preaching to the choir for the first time in a long time; following Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, it is a decidedly non-partisan crowd. But Bruce and the Sessions players more than meet the challenge, laying the sun into the ground for a two-hour set that has the crowd eventually eating out of their hands, many with tears streaming down their faces. Springsteen talks about getting to town the previous day and heading down to the Lower Ninth: “I saw some things I never thought I’d see in an American city.” The emotional “My City of Ruins,” which begins the encore, might as well have been written on that visit; during the song, the whole packed fairgrounds field has hands in the air.
Three years after the band’s rededication, Springsteen’s twelfth studio album is the first E Street album in 18 years, since 1984’s Born the U.S.A. The Rising is also an achievement of another kind: a moving artistic response to the attacks of September 11, 2001 that connects with a mass audience and critics alike. Kurt Loder writes in Rolling Stone, “The heart sags at the prospect of pop stars weighing in on the subject of September 11th. Which of them could possibly transmute the fiery horror of that day with the force of their art, or offer up anything beyond a dismal trivialization? The answer, it turns out, is Bruce Springsteen. With his new album, The Rising, Springsteen wades into the wreckage and pain of that horrendous event and emerges bearing fifteen songs that genuflect with enormous grace before the sorrows that drift in its wake.” Debuting at #1 on the Billboard chart, The Rising goes gold in its first week, led by its powerful title track, which presents both the real-world terror confronted by first responders and a spiritually transcendent “dream of life.”
After years of inducting others and jamming with rock legends at the annual ceremony, Bruce Springsteen is officially welcomed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Bono gives the induction speech: “We call him ‘The Boss.’ Well, that’s a bunch of crap. He’s not the Boss. He works for us. More than a boss, he’s the owner. Because more than anyone else, Bruce Springsteen owns America’s heart.” “I stood on this stage,” Bruce says in his speech, “and I inducted Roy Orbison and Creedence Clearwater Revival and Bob Dylan, an artist whose music was a critical part of my own life.
And tonight I hope that my music served my audience half as well. If I succeeded in doing that, it’s been with the help of many, many kindred spirits along the way.” Though the E Street Band is not inducted with him, a controversial subject to the present day, Springsteen spends much of his own speech singing their praises: “Everybody wants to know how I feel about the band. Hell, I married one of ’em.” Finally, Springsteen brings the E Streeters onto the stage: “My wife, my great friends, my great collaborators, my great band: your presence tonight honors me, and I wouldn’t be standing up here tonight without you, and I can’t stand up here now without you. Please join me.” Though they reunited on a few occasions in 1995, their performance together on this night is the first of a new era: Springsteen will continue to take detours from time to time, but the E Street Band has been a going concern ever since.
Springsteen reconvenes the E Street Band, including both Nils Lofgren and Steve Van Zandt, at the Hit Factory in NYC to record new tracks for his first Greatest Hits effort. For Clarence Clemons, who was most shocked by the band’s break-up, “standing in front of the microphone playing with the E Street Band was the best present I ever got in my life.” The band spends Clemons’s January 11 birthday in the studio, recording together for the first time in nearly ten years. Ernie Fritz’s feature-length documentary, Blood Brothers, captures the studio reunion, as well as the Big Man’s cake.
Springsteen wins the Best Original Song Academy Award for “Streets of Philadelphia,” from Jonathan Demme’s film Philadelphia, becoming the first rock ’n roll artist to win an Oscar in this category. “This is the first song I ever wrote for a motion picture, so I guess it’s all downhill from here,” Bruce jokes in his acceptance speech. Propelled by a hip-hop rhythm that makes good on the promise of post-E Street Band experimentation, the song spends 15 weeks in the Top 40, the longest stay since “Dancing in the Dark,” nearly ten years prior.
Following the Tunnel of Love Express Tour, Bruce and the E Street Band head out to more far-flung locales on the Amnesty International Human Rights Now! Tour. The six-week worldwide jaunt begins on this night in London, soon bringing Springsteen and the E Streeters (along with Sting, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman, and Youssou N’Dour) to Greece, India, South Africa, and Central and South America.
Springsteen’s studio follow-up to Born in the U.S.A. ships double platinum. It’s a profound song cycle dominated by what Springsteen will call his “men and women songs.” Richard Harrington reviews Tunnel of Love for the Washington Post: “It’s not that Springsteen is the first writer to address the confusions of the heart…but putting out such an introspective and intimate collection on the heels of the hard-charging Born in the U.S.A. and the heroically structured Live set is an intriguing move. It contains some of Springsteen’s most personal work and could very well provide the demythologizing he must crave.”
The best-selling album of 1985 in the U.S.A. and Springsteen’s most successful album ever, producing a record-tying string of seven Top 10 hits. Rolling Stone faithfully defined the album’s spirit, calling Springsteen the “Voice of the Decade” “Like Nebraska, Born in the U.S.A. was about people who come to realize that life turns out harder, more hurtful, more close-fisted than they might have expected. But in contrast to Nebraska’s killers and losers, Born in the U.S.A.’s characters hold back the night as best they can, whether it’s by singing, laughing, dancing, yearning, reminiscing or entering into desperate love affairs. There was something celebratory about how these people face their hardships. It’s as if Springsteen were saying that life is made to endure and that we all make peace with private suffering and shared sorrow as best we can.” The title track is often misinterpreted as a patriotic anthem. The album’s cover, photographed by Annie Leibovitz, became an iconic image of the era.
The release of Nebraska, a stripped-down and disturbing solo album that, while a major left turn for a mainstream rock artist, becomes lauded by critics and beloved by fans. Bruce had attempted to revisit the songs himself and with his band throughout the year, but the music captured on the record is what he originally recorded on acoustic guitar and harmonica in January, 1982 stark, intimate, and uncompromising.
In Phoenix, a film crew captures footage for what will be Springsteen’s first music video, “Rosalita,” and additional songs later released as part of the Promise box set.
In a publicity coup engineered by producer Mike Appel, Springsteen appears simultaneously on the covers of Time (“Rock’s New Sensation”) and Newsweek (“Making of a Rock Star”) magazines. Springsteen tells Time, “I don’t understand what all the commotion is about…I feel like I’m on the outside of all this, even though I’m on the inside. It’s like you want attention, but sometimes you can’t relate to it.” In Newsweek, he says, “What phenomenon? We ain’t no phenomenon. The hype just gets in the way.”
Springsteen’s third LP, Born to Run, is released. Co-produced by Springsteen, Appel, and Landau, the album is wildly praised by critics and goes gold in a matter of weeks, cementing Springsteen’s reputation and his standing with the label after the relatively poor commercial performance of his first two albums.
A high-profile, ten-show stand begins at The Bottom Line in New York and builds excitement for Born to Run, with the title track released as a single at the end of the month.
Jon Landau’s “Growing Young with Rock and Roll” is published in The Real Paper. Columbia singles out one line from Landau’s lengthy column to be used in a marketing campaign: “I have seen the future of rock and roll, and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” The line seems ready-made for ad copy, and, taken out of context and used in a heavy advertising blitz, it becomes both a needed spur to album sales and the bane of Bruce’s existence.
The Columbia Records release of Bruce Springsteen’s debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. From the Lester Bangs review in Rolling Stone: “He’s been influenced a lot by The Band, his arrangements tend to take on a Van Morrison tinge every now and then, and he sort of catarrh-mumbles his ditties in a disgruntled mushmouth sorta like Robbie Robertson on Quaaludes with Dylan barfing down the back of his neck. It’s a tuff combination, but it’s only the beginning. Because what makes Bruce totally unique and cosmically surfeiting is his words. Hot damn, what a passel o’ verbiage!”