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Bruce Springsteen

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Springsteen was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, and spent his childhood and high school years in Freehold Borough. He lived on South Street in Freehold Borough and attended Freehold Borough High School. His father, Douglas Frederick Springsteen, was of Dutch and Irish ancestry and worked, among other vocations, as a bus driver; his surname is Dutch for jump stone. His mother, Adele Ann (nee Zerilli), was a legal secretary and was of Italian ancestry. Overall, his heritage is 50% Italian, 37% Irish and 13% Dutch. His maternal grandfather was born in Vico Equense, a city near Naples.  He has two younger sisters, Virginia and Pamela. Pamela had a brief film career, but left acting to pursue still photography full time; she took photos for the Human Touch and Lucky Town albums.

Raised a Roman Catholic, Springsteen attended the St. Rose of Lima Catholic school in Freehold Borough, where he was at odds with the nuns and rejected the strictures imposed upon him, even though some of his later music reflects a Catholic ethos and included a few rock-influenced, traditional Irish-Catholic hymns.

In ninth grade, he transferred to the public Freehold Regional High School, but did not fit in there, either. Old teachers have said he was a “loner, who wanted nothing more than to play his guitar.” He completed high school, but felt so uncomfortable that he skipped his own graduation ceremony. He briefly attended Ocean County College, but dropped out.

Rock musician. Born September 23, 1949, in Long Branch, New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen was raised in a working-class household in Freehold Borough. The future Boss’s father, Doug Springsteen, had trouble holding down a steady job and worked at different times as a bus driver, millworker and prison guard. Adele Springsteen, Bruce’s mother, brought in steadier income as a secretary in a local insurance office. Young Bruce and his father had a difficult relationship. “When I was growing up, there were two things that were unpopular in my house,” the singer later recalled. “One was me, and the other was my guitar.”

Years later, however, Springsteen suggested that his fraught relationship with his father had been important for his art. “I’ve gotta thank him,” Springsteen said upon his induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, “because what would I conceivably have written about without him? I mean, you can imagine that if everything had gone great between us, we would have had disaster. I would have written just happy songs — and I tried it in the early ’90s and it didn’t work… Anyway, I put on his work clothes and I went to work. It was the way that I honored him. My parents’ experience forged my own. They shaped my politics, and they alerted me to what is at stake when you’re born in the U.S.A.”

Bruce Springsteen first fell in love with rock ‘n’ roll when he saw Elvis Presley perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. “[Elvis] was as big as the whole country itself,” Springsteen later remembered, “as big as the whole dream. He just embodied the essence of it and he was in mortal combat with the thing. Nothing will ever take the place of that guy.” Springsteen’s mother took out a loan to buy him a $60 Kent guitar for his 16th birthday, and he hasn’t stopped playing the instrument since then.

An outsider and recluse in school, Springsteen frequently got in trouble at his Catholic elementary school. “In the third grade, a nun stuffed me in a garbage can under her desk because she said that’s where I belonged,” he said. “I also had the distinction of being the only altar boy knocked down by a priest during mass.” Several years later, he skipped his own high school graduation because he felt too uncomfortable to attend.

In 1967, an 18-year-old Springsteen was drafted for military service in the Vietnam War. But as he later told Rolling Stone magazine, the only thought in his head as he traveled to his induction was “I ain’t goin’.” Springsteen failed his physical, largely due to his deliberately “crazy” behavior and a concussion previously suffered in a motorcycle accident. Springsteen’s 4-F classification — unfit for military service — freed him from having to go to Vietnam and allowed him to pursue music full-time.

By the late 1960s, Springsteen was spending most of his time in Asbury Park on the New Jersey Shore, playing in several different bands while he forged his unique sound and introduced audiences to the gravelly baritone voice for which he would later become famous. It was there that he first met the musicians who would later form his E Street Band. Around this time, Springsteen also acquired his nickname, “The Boss,” because he had a habit of collecting money earned during shows and then distributing it evenly among his band mates.

 
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