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Bruce Springsteen on why he became a mega star

Bruce Springsteen is the sort of music star who it is hard to imagine culture without. However, his bombastic presence was not always assured within the industry. Initially dubbed as ‘the next Bob Dylan’, that tagline held a heavy tonnage for a young man, and he was weighed down by the fact that Dylan had hardly gone anywhere. 

Thus, his first album, the masterful Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., peaked at a measly 60 in the US chart and its name was so American sounding that it failed to travel well overseas. However, it did fatefully find its way to the eardrums of David Bowie and he gave ‘The Boss’ some early backing that he needed to get moving in the industry. 

From this humble perch, he soon soared and being a star became a central tenet of his artistic output. He might be a self-professed “spiritual songwriter” but there is a definite swathe of starry swagger in the welter of his work. That didn’t happen by accident. Behind Springsteen’s stardom is a fine-tuned and foolproof work ethic that warranted him the title of ‘The Boss’.

Touching upon this very notion, Springsteen reflected on why he made it as a star when his friend and former frontman in The Castiles, George Theiss didn’t achieve the same level of notoriety despite his evident talent. “There’s some luck involved,” he told NPR, “there’s some choice of path.”

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Growing up Theiss was somewhat of a local celebrity in Asbury Park, but Springsteen always had his eyes set on loftier heights which encouraged him to knuckle down and avoid distractions. “George was married very, very young — 18 or 19, I believe — and became a father very young, so he had a lot of responsibilities,” Springsteen recalled. 

However, the old pram in the doorway is never the only hurdle, and Springsteen knew that despite the odds, finetuning your skill set and finding your voice was the key. “And then it comes down to also writing,” he added, “your ability to write is essential in how you progress.” And boy could Springsteen write. As Bob Dylan himself once said of ‘The Boss’, “He better be careful, or he might go through every word in the English language.”

This took hard work, as Springsteen concluded: “I really studied and perfected my writing skills very, very intensely. But it’s just different paths, really. I don’t really have an explanation as to why life takes someone one way or someone the other. I mean, I was a one-track mind before anything else — before work, girls, I was always just: music, music, music, music, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And that had a lot to do with it.”

That work was driven by a passion borne from the power that music can hold. As he said of his hero Bob Dylan, “The way that Elvis freed your body, Dylan freed your mind, and showed us that because the music was physical did not mean it was anti-intellect. He had the vision and talent to make a pop song so that it contained the whole world.” Springsteen himself has certainly touched upon a similar ethos, and it might sound like a purely visceral outcry, but it was the sound stardom spawned by sweat. 

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