Bruce Springsteen

On this day in 1949, Bruce Springsteen was born in Freehold, N.J. The "Boss," as he is

known to his legions of fans, has been producing his own personal brand of rock and

folk for a quarter of a century, peaking commercially with 1984's multi-platinum Born

in the U.S.A.

Springsteen grew up in a working-class, New Jersey family. He began to play rock guitar

in a series of '60s bands after seeing Elvis Presley on "The Ed Sullivan Show." By the

early '70s, he was trying his hand at being a folk singer/songwriter in Greenwich Village

in Manhattan, N.Y.

John Hammond, the A&R executive who discovered Bob Dylan, signed Springsteen to

Columbia Records in 1972. Though the label expected a folk album, Springsteen

brought in fellow Jersey musicians to record 1973's Greetings from Asbury Park,

N.J. The LP didn't sell well, but that same year, his sophomore effort, The Wild, the

Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, drew praise from critics.

Springsteen began to make a name for himself as an energetic live performer and was

hailed by Rolling Stone critic -- and future Springsteen manager -- Jon Landau as

rock 'n' roll's "future." Born to Run (1975) was Springsteen's national

breakthrough. With its operatic ballads, such as "Jungleland," it was labeled by many as

a classic and went to #3, spawning the hit

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Springsteen,_Bruce/Born_To_Run.ram">title-track (RealAudio excerpt) and "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out." Legal wrangles held

the release of Darkness on the Edge of Town back until 1978, but it was

well-received and went platinum.

As Springsteen began to sell out U.S. arenas with his marathon shows, he released the

double LP The River (1980), which went to #1 and featured his first top-10 hit,

"Hungry Heart."

Springsteen retreated from his expanding success by issuing the dark, folk-infused

Nebraska (1982). But then came Born in the U.S.A. (1984) and a two-year,

international tour. The album produced seven hit singles, including the #2 "Dancing in

the Dark," and sold more than 10 million copies, putting Springsteen in the pop

stratosphere, along with Michael Jackson. Springsteen capped a 10-year run of success

with the three-CD Live, 1975-1985 (1986).

Tunnel of Love (1987), which presaged Springsteen's divorce from his first wife,

actress Julianne Phillips, featured lyrics with more mature themes. In 1991, Springsteen

married for the second time, to singer Patti Scialfa, who had joined his E Street Band. He

broke up the band after a 1989 tour and issued two albums simultaneously in 1992,

Human Touch and Lucky Town, which were less popular than his previous

work.

Springsteen won the 1993 Academy Award for Best Song (and three Grammy Awards)

for "Streets of Philadelphia," from the AIDS drama "Philadelphia."

In 1995, Springsteen released a near-acoustic, folk effort, The Ghost of Tom Joad,

which received mostly positive reviews.

In the past few years, Springsteen has been spotted in New Jersey bars, jamming with

musical friends such as Steve Earle.

Springsteen is a huge influence on many of today's singer/songwriters. Mary Cutrufello,

who recently released her major-label debut, When the Night is Through

(Mercury), cites the first time she heard Springsteen's "Backstreets" as a defining

moment in her youth.

Springsteen is reportedly issuing a box set in November, consisting of unreleased cuts,

B-sides, live tracks and newly recorded songs with the E Street Band.

In addition, Avon Books has announced the December publication of a book of lyrics and

commentary from the Boss, titled "Bruce Springsteen: Songs." Springsteen is likely to

be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January 1999, the first year in which

he is eligible.

Other birthdays: Ray Charles, 68; Ben E. King, 60; Steve Boone (Lovin' Spoonful), 55;

Julio Iglesias, 55; Ron Bushy (Iron Butterfly), 53; Lita Ford, 39; and Ani DiFranco, 28.