Bruce Springsteen grew up idolising internationally renowned stars like The Beatles and Elvis Presley, but they always seemed out-of-reach for a kid from New Jersey. On the contrary, The Motifs grew up on the same streets as Springsteen and inspired him from an early age.
Unlike his other childhood favourites, The Motifs never managed to connect with a mainstream audience, but that didn’t matter to Springsteen. The band were led by brothers Walter and Raymond Cichon, who mentored Bruce and took him under their wing. They were crucial in him learning his craft, and by studying them at work, ‘The Boss’ decided his calling was to follow in their footsteps.
Springsteen has never been shy about handing them props when he’s given an opportunity, and there was even a section of his Broadway show dedicated to the Cichons. As he talked fans through his life, Bruce took time to pause and reflect on two of the most important figures on his journey.
Around the halfway point in the show, Springsteen brought up the brothers and told the crowd, “They were gods”. He then individually praised each brother, starting with Walter, “On stage, he was deadly, and he was aloof and raw and sexual and dangerous.” Meanwhile, on Raymond, Bruce added: “Raymond was my guitar hero.”
Springsteen name-dropped only a handful of people during his Broadway show, which speaks volumes about his respect for the Cichon brothers. He has also previously revealed they are the inspiration for his track ‘The Wall’ and said The Motifs were “a head above everybody else.” Springsteen continued: “Raw, sexy and rebellious, they were the heroes you aspired to be. But these were heroes you could touch, speak to, and go to with your musical inquiries.
“Cool, but always accessible, they were an inspiration to me and many young working musicians in 1960s central New Jersey. . .[Cichon] was the first person I ever stood in the presence of who was filled with the mystique of the true rock star.”
Unfortunately, there was no happy ending for The Motifs, and their story is drenched in tragedy. Walter was drafted to serve in the Vietnam War and lost his life in 1968 while defending his country. If Springsteen didn’t dodge the draft, that could have possibly been him who lost his life, and Cichon’s death continues to haunt him.
“He still performs somewhat regularly in my mind, the way he stood, dressed, held the tambourine, the casual cool, the freeness,” Springsteen admitted. “The man who by his attitude, his walk said ‘you can defy all this, all of what’s here, all of what you’ve been taught, taught to fear, to love and you’ll still be alright.’ His was a terrible loss to us, his loved ones and the local music scene. I still miss him.”
Watch the footage below of Springsteen performing ‘The Wall’ in 2014, which is dedicated to the Cichon brothers.