35 Facts About Bruce Springsteen

Chris Jackson/Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation
Chris Jackson/Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation

Today, Mr. Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen—"The Boss," the patron saint of the working man, the protector of all that is holy and righteous on E Street—turns 70 years old. To celebrate his big day, here are 35 things you need to know about the rocker and his E Street band.

1. Barack Obama is a big Bruce Springsteen fan.

Bruce Springsteen has fans in high places. Barack Obama has said that there are "a handful of people who enter into your lives through their music and tell the American people's story. Bruce Springsteen is one of those people." Obama also said that he ran for President because he couldn't be Bruce Springsteen.

2. Joe Strummer was also a fan.

Another major Springsteen fan was the late Joe Strummer. The Clash frontman was asked about the Boss for a TV documentary in the mid-1990s and responded with a fax that said, among other things, "Bruce is great ... If you don't agree with that, you're a pretentious Martian from Venus" and "The DJ puts on 'Racing in the Streets' and life seems worth living again."

3. Dr. Ruth had some songwriting advice for the musician.

Dr. Ruth Westheimer once visited Springsteen backstage at a show. She told him she liked what he said in his songs about love and sex, but she wished he would mention contraception once in a while. The Boss's reply? "Gee, it’s going to be tough to get the word contraception into a song."

4. He was close friends and collaborators with Warren Zevon.

The late Warren Zevon was Springsteen's friend, fan and collaborator. When Zevon was diagnosed with mesothelioma, he refused any treatment he thought would incapacitate him and headed to the studio—with plenty of friends in tow—to record his final album, The Wind. Springsteen provided background vocals and electric guitar for two songs, one of which won the Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal. Springsteen later appeared on a tribute album to Zevon, performing his song "My Ride's Here."

5. As a kid, he was not a great student.

Springsteen had a bit of a hard time in school. "In the third grade, a nun stuffed me in a garbage can under her desk because she said that's where I belonged," Springsteen said. "I also had the distinction of being the only altar boy knocked down by a priest during mass." Years later, at Ocean County College, legend has it that his fellow students petitioned the administration to have him expelled.

6. He also had a bit of a following among his fellow students.

Of course, Springsteen had his fans, too. Some of the girls in his high school approached the administration with a petition demanding that Bruce's band at the time, the Castiles, be given more attention and respect.

7. He grew up surrounded by the sweet smells of chocolate.

When the Springsteens were living in Freehold, New Jersey, their house was near a Nestle's factory. When the wind was just right, they could smell chocolate and coffee all day long.

8. The first song he ever learned to play on the guitar was a Beatles song.

The first song Springsteen learned to play on the guitar was the Beatles' "Twist and Shout." He has played it hundreds more times over the years at concerts, often as an encore.

9. There really is an E Street.

It runs northeast through the New Jersey shore town of Belmar. According to Springsteen lore, the band took its name from the street because original keyboard player David Sancious' mother lived there and allowed the band to rehearse in her house.

The titular avenue of "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" is also in Belmar.

10. "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" was guitarist Steven Van Zandt's debut with the E Street Band.

Van Zandt came up with the idea for the horn intro and became the de facto arranger when he sang the line for the horn section.

11. The working title for Darkness on the Edge of Town was American Madness.

American Madness was also the title of a 1932 Frank Capra movie.

12. He originally wrote "Hungry Heart" for The Ramones.

In 1979, Springsteen saw the Ramones play at the Fast Lane in Asbury Park, New Jersey. He met the band and Joey Ramone asked Springsteen to write a song for them. Springsteen wrote "Hungry Heart" with the intention of giving it to them, but hung on to it at the urging of his manager.

13. Springsteen originally saw his first wife in a music video.

The first place Springsteen saw his first wife, Julianne Phillips? In one of .38 Special's music videos. She later appeared toward the end of Springsteen's video for "Glory Days." She appears in the video with Patti Scialfa, Springsteen's second (and current) wife.

14. He went home from the movies with a random fan to prove a point.

Springsteen lore has it that the musician was once spotted in a movie theater watching Woody Allen's Stardust Memories (which comments on artist/fan relations). The fan who saw him challenged the singer to prove he didn't regard his own fans with the contempt as the Allen stand-in in the movie by coming to meet his parents ... so he did. "And for two hours I was in this kid’s house, talking with these people," Springsteen recalled. "They were really nice. They cooked me up all this food, watermelon, and the guy gave me a ride back to my hotel a few hours later."

15. The "chicken man" he references in "Atlantic City" was a mob boss.

When Springsteen sings that "they blew up the Chicken Man in Philly last night" in "Atlantic City," he's referring to Phil Testa, the underboss of the Philadelphia crime family under Angelo Bruno. Bruno was killed in 1980, and Testa, who got his nickname from his involvement in a poultry business, succeeded him as don of the family. His nine-month reign ended when conspirators in the family placed a nail bomb under his porch and detonated it when he walked out the front door.

16. Springsteen caused a security scare at elvis presley's graceland.

After a 1976 concert in Memphis, a presumably inebriated Springsteen went to Graceland at three in the morning, jumped the wall, and ran to the front door. Security grabbed him before he could make it to the door and sent him packing. Knocking wouldn't have done much good, anyway. Elvis was in Lake Tahoe at the time.

17. He's a talented photographer.

According to Frank Stefanko, a photographer and friend Springsteen's, The Boss is a pretty talented photographer. "Riding in my car he'll notice unusual things—weird Jersey billboards, funny signs on the sides of diners—and it's all registering," Stefanko said. "A [nonphotographer] will just walk by and never see it. Bruce travels all over the world, taking pictures—it's quite a collection of work. Will he ever show it? I don't know. He doesn't make a fuss over it. But I know he has that artist's eye—his eyes, his brain, they're always working."

18. He has been heard in space.

In December 1999, the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery was woken up with Springsteen's song "Rendezvous" on the day they were scheduled to rendezvous with the Hubble Space Telescope.

19. He wrote "Fire" for Elvis Presley.

In May 1977, Springsteen and Van Zandt went to an Elvis Presley concert in Philadelphia. A few days later Bruce wrote "Fire," and allegedly sent a demo of the song to Presley that summer, hoping he might cover it. Whether the tape got sent or not, Presley died that August and Springsteen wound up giving "Fire" to Robert Gordon. Gordon's version of the song was covered by the The Pointer Sisters, who made it a hit in 1979.

20. Monmouth University is home to an archive of Springsteen artifacts.

New Jersey's Monmouth University is home to The Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music which, according to the website, "serves as the official archival repository for Bruce Springsteen’s written works, photographs, periodicals, and artifacts." There are more than 35,000 pieces in the collection, which is available to view by appointment only.

21. "Kitty's Back" was inspired by a jersey shore strip club.

The title for "Kitty's Back," from The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, was inspired by a neon sign Springsteen saw promoting the return of popular stripper a Jersey Shore club.

22. Someone may have paid a lot of money for Springsteen's screen door.

According to local legend, a fan bought the screen door of the house at 68 South Street in Freehold, New Jersey—a house Springsteen had once lived in—from the homeowner in the early '80s, thinking it was the screen door mentioned in "Thunder Road."

23. He played a concert in the gym of his former grammar school in 1996.

In November 1996, Springsteen played a benefit concert in the gymnasium of his former grade school, the St. Rose of Lima School in Freehold, New Jersey. Only Freehold residents were allowed to purchase tickets.

24. He's been the subject of a symposium for musicologists and educators.

In September 2005, and again in 2009, "Glory Days: A Bruce Springsteen Symposium" drew a crowd of 330 educators, journalists, historians, musicologists, and fans to hear more than 100 presentations on Springsteen scholarship.

25. He turned Asbury Park's The Stone Pony into a tourist attraction.

Thanks to the Boss, the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey is one of the most famous music venues in the world. It's so closely associated with Springsteen that you might think he got his start at there, but the club only opened in 1974, when Springsteen already had two albums out.

26. He has a minor planet named after him.

It's technical designation is 23990 Springsteen.

27. The fortune teller in "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" is real.

Madam Marie, the fortune-teller in "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)," is as real as E Street. Marie Castello told fortunes on the Asbury Park boardwalk from 1932 until her death in 2008 at age 93. The fortune-telling booth is still there and is run by Madam Marie's family.

28. There's a Muppet modeled after him.

Sesame Street has performed a couple of different Springsteen covers, including "Born to Add" and Barn in the USA." The tunes have been performed by a Muppet named Bruce Stringbean who is backed by the S Street Band.

29. The E Street Band made their live debut in 1974.

The live debut of the E Street Band, with Max Weinberg on drums and Roy Bittan on piano, occurred on September 20, 1974 at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. That show marked the first time that Springsteen earned $5000 for a night's work.

30. It took 16 hours to create Clarence Clemons' "Jungleland" sax solo.

When the band was recording, "Jungleland," the epic that closes Born to Run, it took 16 hours (with no bathroom breaks, at least according to Clemons) to work out and record Clarence Clemons' sax solo. When the Boss pointed this out to Clemons, he was surprised. He thought it had only been five.

31. Springsteen and Clemons' first meeting is the stuff of legends.

According to Springsteen lore, Bruce first met Clarence "Big Man" Clemons while playing at a club in Asbury Park. “A rainy, windy night it was, and when I opened the door the whole thing flew off its hinges and blew away down the street," Clemons, who passed away in 2011, once recalled. "The band were onstage, but staring at me framed in the doorway. Bruce and I looked at each other and didn't say anything, we just knew. We knew we were the missing links in each other's lives. He was what I'd been searching for.”

Springsteen liked to use the story as proof that Clemons, the E Street Band's personal Paul Bunyan, could blow the doors off any room he was in.

32. One might consider October 19, 1984, "the night Rosalita died."

As far back as the song was written, almost every regular set at a Springsteen concert was closed with an extended version of "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)." But on that fateful night in Tacoma, Washington, Rosie was dropped from set list. Springsteen biographer Dave Marsh wrote that this was done to "disrupt the ritual expectations of the fanatic fans ... establishing through a burst of creativity just who was boss ... he'd liberated the show from an albatross, a song that was too long and had long since stopped breathing."

33. Ernest Carter made a memorable impact on "Born to Run."

Ernest "Boom" Carter doesn't have the same name recognition as some other E Streeters, but even if you're only a casual Springsteen fan, you've heard his work. Carter's only performance with Springsteen was his drum track on "Born to Run." Carter's successor to the drum throne, Max Weinberg, has said that he could never reproduce Carter's drum parts in concert and eventually stopped trying.

34. Max Weinberg isn't a fan of Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Weinberg isn't a fan of Darkness on the Edge of Town because his performance on "Something in the Night" bothers him. Toward the end of the song, the band cuts out and Bruce starts singing over Max's drums. A few seconds into it, Max loses the beat and noticeably slows down the song.

35. Stephen king thinks he's be perfect in The stand.

If you've ever read Stephen King's The Stand, you probably can't help but imagine Springsteen as the character Larry Underwood. Well, King felt the same way, saying the in the foreword for the reissue of the novel that Springsteen, based solely on his music videos, would've been a perfect choice for an adaptation of the book.

In related news: It was announced earlier this year that The Stand will be adapted into a TV series. The series' current working title? "Radio Nowhere," which is a track off Springsteen's 2007 album Magic.

This story has been updated for 2019.

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BartekSzewczyk/iStock via Getty Images
BartekSzewczyk/iStock via Getty Images

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10 Chance Meetings That Changed the World

John Lennon (left) and Paul McCartney (right) from The Beatles.
John Lennon (left) and Paul McCartney (right) from The Beatles.
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Some call it fate. Others call it destiny. And some just brush it off as coincidence. But however you view it, life has a funny way of bringing people together at just the right place and time. Check out some of the most random historical encounters we could find—meetings that, had they not happened, would have resulted in a very different world today.

1. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony

Elizabeth Cady Stanton with Susan B. Anthony.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (left) and Susan B. Anthony (right).
Wikimedia//Public Domain

The suffrage movement would have looked very different had Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony not met on a street corner in 1851. Although both Stanton and Anthony were fierce abolitionists, Stanton got involved in suffrage earlier. She launched the First Women’s Rights Convention in 1848 as a reaction to being denied a seat at the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention because she was a woman. Similarly, Anthony, who was born into a family of abolitionists, turned her sights toward suffrage after being unable to speak at a temperance convention. Still, their meeting was entirely coincidental.

After Anthony traveled to Seneca Falls, New York—where Stanton lived—for an antislavery meeting, she and her friend Amelia Bloomer ran into Stanton on the street. Bloomer, a mutual friend of both, introduced them, and the two formed a near-immediate friendship. Because Stanton was a busy wife and mother, she needed someone to be the voice of the suffrage movement and to deliver her speeches on the road. That person became Susan B. Anthony. Together, this powerful duo would go on to launch a suffrage newspaper called The Revolution, found the National American Women Suffrage Association, and more—all because they happened to go for a walk at the same time.

2. F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald with his wife Zelda Fitzgerald.
F. Scott Fitzgerald with his wife, Zelda Fitzgerald.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

You would think that the most iconic couple of the 1920s would have met in a speakeasy, or, at the very least, been introduced by some famous author friends. But instead, the couple that embodied the Roaring Twenties met in a pretty ordinary way: At a dance. In July 1918, 21-year-old F. Scott Fitzgerald, then a soldier, was stationed at Camp Sheridan in Montgomery, Alabama, awaiting orders to fight overseas in World War I. Sick of having only his fellow soldiers for company, he decided to attend a nearby country club dance to blow off some steam. It was there he met Zelda Sayre for the first time.

Zelda was already the crown jewel of Montgomery society by that point and wasn’t initially interested in Fitzgerald, an aspiring writer. Still, Fitzgerald pursued the fiercely independent Zelda for two years, and finally convinced her to marry him after his first novel, This Side of Paradise, was picked up by Scribner in 1920. Though their marriage was famously tumultuous, they did inspire each other's work. F. Scott would even wind up lifting lines from Zelda's personal diary and including them in The Great Gatsby

3. Larry Page and Sergey Brin

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin
Google founders Sergey Brin (left) and Larry Page (right).
Michael Nagle/Getty Images News

College tours aren’t normally life-changing—but in the case of Google’s founders, a walk around Stanford ended up changing the course of their careers (and had a pretty big impact on the rest of us). In 1995, Sergey Brin, then a second-year grad student in computer science, volunteered to be a tour guide for prospective students who had just been admitted to the school. By pure chance, Larry Page, an engineering major from the University of Michigan, ended up in his group.

Although the pair didn’t exactly start off as friends (they clashed during the tour and found each other “obnoxious”) it was a meaningful first impression. Several months later, when Page’s dissertation on the World Wide Web turned into a much bigger project involving a prototype search engine, he needed help building the system—which was originally named BackRub but, thankfully, was renamed to Google. The person he chose for the job? Someone who he had come to respect: his former tour guide.

4. Bob Woodward and Mark Felt (a.k.a. Deep Throat)

It turned out to be a simple package that helped turn Bob Woodward from a run-of-the-mill journalist into one of the men responsible for uncovering the most infamous scandal in presidential history. In 1970, Woodward was a lieutenant in his final year of Naval service, and one of his regular duties was to work as a courier delivering packages to the White House. One night, after spending a considerable amount of time in a waiting room for someone to come sign for a package, an older man came out to meet him. Woodward struck up a conversation with the man, and eventually learned that he was Mark Felt, an assistant director of the FBI.

Woodward, eager to advance in his career, asked for Felt’s phone number so that they could stay in touch. He reached out often while he transitioned from a military man to a journalist, with Felt acting as mentor and occasional anonymous source for Woodward's stories. Eventually, Felt would feed Woodward and his partner, Carl Bernstein, the information that helped uncover the Watergate scandal, which would lead to the resignation of President Richard Nixon on August 8, 1974.

5. Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison

An engraving of Frederick Douglass, circa the 1850s.
Engraving of Frederick Douglass, circa the 1850s.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

William Lloyd Garrison’s newspaper, The Liberator, was the largest abolitionist publication of its time—and Frederick Douglass just so happened to be a loyal reader. When Douglass heard that Garrison was going to give a speech at an antislavery convention in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1841, he decided to attend. But while he was there, a friend coaxed the shy Douglass to give a speech on his life story as a runaway slave in front of the attendees, which he reluctantly agreed to. Garrison, deeply moved by the unexpected speech, realized that Douglass not only had an incredible story—but a talent for speaking, as well.

Douglass's unlikely speech turned into another one two days later at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society’s convention in Nantucket, and Garrison took it upon himself to land Douglass a gig as a lecturer at the Society. He soon became Douglass’s mentor, introducing him to other influential abolitionists and later helping him to get his book published. Although the pair eventually became estranged due to differing interpretations of the Constitution, their early partnership helped Douglass ascend to national recognition, eventually leading to his fateful meeting with Abraham Lincoln in the White House. Not an honor often afforded to former slaves, Douglass spoke with the president about the unfair treatment of black soldiers fighting in the Civil War, leading to a sometimes strained but always respectful relationship between the two until Lincoln's death.

6. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak

A photograph of Steve Jobs (left) and Steve Wozniak (right), the co-founders of Apple Computer Inc. xz
Steve Jobs (left) and Steve Wozniak (right), the co-founders of Apple Computer, Inc.
Tom Munnecke, Hulton Archive/Getty Images

iPhones, Macbooks, Apple watches, and more possibly wouldn’t exist if it wasn't for ... Bill Fernandez?

Fernandez was a mutual friend of Steve Jobs—whom he'd known since they attended Cupertino Junior High School—and Steve Wozniak, who lived on Fernandez's block. He thought they'd naturally hit it off.

Jobs was visiting Fernandez one day in 1971, and as they took a walk around the block, Fernandez saw Wozniak outside washing his car. He introduced the pair, and pretty soon, Jobs and Wozniak were fast friends themselves.

Jobs and Wozniak began hanging out and eventually started working on projects together. The first was blue boxes for phone phreakers (devices that people used to “hack” phones and make free calls). They quickly moved on to more respectable work, though, after joining the Homebrew Computer Club, a Silicon Valley-based club for computer hobbyists looking to make their own machines. From there, Wozniak built the Apple I in 1976—his first computer kit—and had Jobs help with the marketing. Soon after, the pair would work on the Apple II and formed Apple Computer, Inc. Fernandez would be one of the company's first employees.

7. John Lennon and Paul McCartney

A photograph of John Lennon and Paul McCartney at London Airport in 1968.
John Lennon (left) and Paul McCartney (right) at London Airport in 1968.
Stroud/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

On July 6, 1957, a 15-year-old McCartney attended the annual Woolton Parish Church Garden Fete—not because he was a particularly active member of the church community, but because he hoped to find a girl there. With no girls to be found, he decided to listen to the music instead.

A high school band called The Quarrymen had just managed to squeeze themselves onto the schedule of events that day, and McCartney was immediately impressed by their sound. Once the set was over, McCartney had a mutual friend introduce him to the lead singer, John Lennon, so he could show off his stuff. After seeing McCartney’s (very impressive) guitar skills, Lennon invited him to join the band. And half of the Beatles was born.

8. Henry Ford and Thomas Edison

A photograph of Thomas Edison (right) and Henry Ford (left) examining Edison's incandescent lightbulb.
Henry Ford (left) and Thomas Edison (right).
Henry Guttmann Collection, Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Thomas Edison was Henry Ford’s personal hero, but he never dreamed that they would become great friends. That all changed in 1896, however, when Ford attended the convention of the Association of Edison Illuminating Companies in Brooklyn, New York. Edison was making his rounds at the event, and, much to Ford’s delight, had a brief conversation with him about his recently invented quadricycle, the first automobile Ford ever designed. (Ford was working at one of Edison's subsidiary companies at this time and had idolized the inventor since he was a boy.)

According to legend, Edison, fascinated by Ford's ingenuity, told him: “You have the thing. Keep at it.” Twelve years later, Ford—who would single out the chance meeting as an important inspiration for his career—introduced the Model T, and he and Edison eventually formed a deep friendship that would last the rest of their lives.

9. Wallis Simpson and Prince Edward

A photograph of The Duke of Windsor with Wallis Simpson their wedding day at Château de Condé in France.
Wallis Simpson with the Duke of Windsor on their wedding day at Château de Condé in France.
Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Who knew that a weekend getaway would cause one of the most scandalous relationships in Great Britain’s history? Wallis Simpson, an American expat who came to England in the 1920s, was a social climber eager to rub elbows with only the most elite of British society. Previously married to a navy pilot, she and her second husband, Ernest Simpson, rose quickly through the ranks of the upper crust, and in 1931, they were invited to an exclusive hunting weekend at their friend Lady Thelma Furness’s home.

Lady Furness, who was Prince Edward VIII’s mistress at the time, could never have imagined that introducing Wallis and Prince Edward would doom her own relationship—and all because he and Wallis had a dull conversation about central heating. When Wallis allegedly called him out for essentially being a bore (a social crime of the highest degree), the prince was so enchanted by her feisty cheek that he (eventually) deemed it worthy of abdicating a throne for.

10. Sacagawea and Lewis & Clark

Sacagawea with Lewis and Clark.
Sacagawea acted as a guide for Lewis and Clark.
Edgar Samuel Paxson, Wikimedia//Public Domain

Sacagawea is well-known as explorer Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s translator during their Corps of Discovery Expedition, which explored the new Louisana Purchase, but the story of how she actually came to join the expedition is even more incredible. A member of the Shoshone tribe, she was kidnapped by a rival tribe, the Hidatsa, when she was a teenager and was brought to their settlement in South Dakota. She was then sold to a French-Canadian fur trader, Toussaint Charbonneau, who already lived with the Hidatsa. She was made to become one of his two wives and soon became pregnant with his child (polygamy was a Hidatsa tradition Charbonneau readily adopted, according to History.com).

By the time Lewis and Clark reached Hidatsa territory in November 1804 and began building their own settlement after establishing friendly contact with the tribe, Sacagawea was six months pregnant. Lewis and Clark met Sacagawea and Charbonneau during their stay and immediately recognized her value as a travel companion—she could speak both Hidatsa and Shoshone, and they could use her language skills to purchase much-needed horses from the Shoshone for the expedition. (She would translate Shoshone into Hidatsa and communicate that to Charbonneau, who would translate the Hidatsa into French and communicate that to a French- and English-speaking member of the Corps.) They waited for Sacagawea to give birth before continuing on their journey, and in 1805, the Corps of Discovery—which now included Sacagawea, Charbonneau, and their newborn son—departed. With Sacagawea's help, they would make it to the Pacific Coast and back with maps, specimens, and important information about the Louisiana Purchase.