Bruce Springsteen celebrates his 60th birthday today
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For nearly four decades Bruce Springsteen has been a rock & roll working-class hero: a plainspoken visionary. He is a fervent and sincere romantic whose insights into everyday lives — especially in America’s small-town, working-class heartland — have earned comparisons to John Steinbeck and Woody Guthrie. His belief in rock’s mythic past and its potential revitalized pop music and made Springsteen a superstar in the ’80s. Since then, he has remained true to his artistic calling and shown himself, in carefully selected interviews, to be among the most thoughtful and articulate artists in rock.
Springsteen, of Irish-Italian ancestry, grew up in Freehold, New Jersey, the son of a bus driver and a secretary. He took up the guitar at 13 and joined the Castiles a year later. In 1966 the Castiles recorded but never released two songs co-written by Springsteen, and they worked their way up to a string of dates at New York City’s Café Wha? in 1967. During the summer after his graduation from high school, Springsteen was working with Earth, a Cream-style power trio, and hanging out in Asbury Park, New Jersey. He entered Ocean County Community College in the fall, but dropped out when a New York producer promised him a contract; he never saw the producer again.
While in college, Springsteen had formed a group with some local musicians, including drummer Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez and keyboardist Danny Federici. Called Child, then Steel Mill, the group worked the Atlantic coast down to Virginia. In summer 1969 Steel Mill visited California (where Springsteen’s parents had moved); club dates in San Francisco led to a show at Bill Graham’s Fillmore and a contract offer from Graham’s Fillmore Records, which Steel Mill turned down because the advance was too small. The band returned east and was joined by an old friend of Springsteen’s, Miami Steve Van Zandt, on bass.
Springsteen disbanded Steel Mill in early 1971, intending to…
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