Bruce Springsteen hates authority, and on top of that, he’s a fierce supporter of workers rights – a factor that puts his nickname of ‘The Boss’ into delicate waters. Springsteen even once said, “Unions have been the only powerful and effective voice working people have ever had in this country”.
The nickname, which initially started as a jovial thing between friends, soon took on a life of its own when he became internationally famous. Springsteen took it upon himself to be the band’s de-facto leader when The E Street Band made their name on the New Jersey circuit. They didn’t have the excess financial resources to employ a tour manager, so instead, Bruce became ‘The Boss’.
On the subject, author Andrew Delahunty recalled to the BBC in 2009: “In the early days when he and the E-Street Band played gigs in small venues, it was Bruce’s job to collect the money and pay the rest of the band,” he said. “This led them to start calling him The Boss, a nickname which has stuck”.
Delahunty’s comments are supported by Peter Carlin, who penned the biography Bruce. He recounted in the book how Springsteen and his bandmates would enjoy a high-stakes weekly game of Monopoly, and it was during one of these nights that Bruce officialised the moniker by making it his game name.
Springsteen had no idea that the in-joke between his band would become the first thing people think of when they hear his name. After all, back when the nickname started, he was plying his trade in the finest sweaty dive bar’s in the New Jersey district, and success was nothing more than a pipedream.
However, if Springsteen could go back to that game of Monopoly where he decided to make to bind ‘The Boss’ nickname, he’d almost certainly choose a different pseudonym. In the biography, It Ain’t No Sin to Be Glad You’re Alive: The Promise of Bruce Springsteen, he even says: “I hate bosses. I hate being called the boss”.
Somehow, the music press undercovered that this was what everybody backstage referred to Springsteen as, and much to the singer’s dismay, the phrase entered their lexicon.
Although it started as a direct result of his off-stage behaviour, the powerful prowess of his songs is the reason for the name sticking. When it comes to providing a voice for the struggle of the blue-collar workers of America, nobody comes close to Springsteen. Since the ’70s, he has fiercely represented the troubles that swarm the lives of regular people, and whether he likes it or not, Bruce Springsteen is ‘The Boss’.