Bruce Springsteen is 65 years old today, and to celebrate, we’re uncovering some little known facts about The Boss. If you’re a die-hard Springsteen fan (like me) you may have known some of these things already, but chances are at least a few tidbits will be new to you. Let’s dig in…
He viewed Clarence Clemons as the only irreplaceable band member.
Peter Ames Carlin’s 2012 Springsteen biography Bruce contains hundreds of fascinating stories, but here’s one of the most memorable anecdotes: in 1978, shortly after the release of Darkness On the Edge Of Town Springsteen caught two band members doing cocaine. He was wary of anyone’s vices threatening their commitment to the music, and upon seeing this, he threatened to fire anyone on the spot if he saw them doing hard drugs again. When his road manager Bobby Chirmside asked if he was serious, Springsteen said that he was, and that any band member other than Clarence Clemons could be replaced on the spot. Even in the early days, Springsteen’s relationship with Clemons was tighter than anyone else in the band. He considered him the most essential member to both the sound and the concept of the band.
He gave a few of his best songs to other artists.
Chances are, you’ve heard “Fire” by the Pointer Sisters, or “Pink Cadillac” by Natalie Cole on the radio a few times. What you may not know is that Springsteen composed both of them. “Fire” was initially recorded by Robert Gordon in 1978, but it was the Pointer Sisters version that became a smash, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Charts. A live version of Springsteen performing the song was released on the live compilation Live/1975-85, and reached #46 on the Billboard charts.
“Pink Cadillac” was written during the sessions for Born In The U.S.A., but it didn’t make the final track list. It was, however, released as the B-side to the “Dancing In the Dark” single. Still, the song received the most exposure from Natalie Cole’s R&B-influenced take on the song, which reached #5 on the Bilboard charts in 1988.
His only #1 hit happened when another band covered him.
During his 70s and 80s heyday, Springsteen was a force on the charts, but he could never quite get to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The closest he came was with 1984’s “Dancing In The Dark,” which peaked at #2, behind Prince’s “When Doves Cry.” But while Springsteen himself never topped the chart, Mannfed Mann’s Earth Band did get to #1 with a Springsteen cover. Their version of “Blinded By the Light,” the opening track of Springsteen’s debut album Greetings From Ashbury Park, N.J., hit #1 in 1977, and is by far the band’s biggest hit. Springsteen has acknowledged the humor in having his only #1 come from someone else covering him, joking about it in his 2005 appearance on VH1’s Storytellers.
In the late 80s, he wasn’t the easiest guy to get along with.
After the massive success of Born In The U.S.A., Springsteen had become one of the biggest stars in the world. But his personal life was crumbling, as he was about to go through a divorce from his wife, actress Julianne Phillips, which would inspire much of the material for the Tunnel of Love album. According to Bruce, Springsteen had become increasingly difficult to get along with, and on subsequent tours, behaved in ways that were rather unusual for him. Most notably, he would dock his roadies’ pay if his soup wasn’t delivered on time. This hardly fits in with Springsteen’ working class image, but one might expect that he was just going through a rough stretch, and it made him a bit crankier than usual.
For years, he was uncomfortable enjoying his massive wealth — but he eventually relented.
One of the more common criticisms of Springsteen in recent years is that his status as a Working Class Rocker is hypocritical due to how massively wealthy he is. For many years, Springsteen more or less agreed with this perception, and as the money from Born To Run sales rolled in, he tried his best to spend as little of it as possible (this is discussed in Bruce). Later on, however, he would relent, and finally start spending his massive fortune. How decadent has he gotten? Well, his personal chef used to work for the king of Saudi Arabia. So, there’s that. If you’re interested he’s got a great recipe for a mozzarella dish: