5 Reasons Why Bruce Springsteen Is a Rock Legend

Bruce Springsteen has been a staple of American rock ‘n’ roll for more than a half century. He’s woven himself into the genre’s DNA. Whether joined by the E Street Band—a backup band with its own marquee name, filled with larger-than-life characters like Little Steven (known to Sopranos fans as mobster Silvio Dante), Max Weinberg (known to late-night TV fans as Conan O’Brien’s former bandleader), and Nils Lofgren (known to Neil Young fans as a recurring member of Crazy Horse)—or performing alone, Springsteen has the kind of musical presence that fills football stadiums. 

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How does he do it, exactly? A combination of genetics, sweat equity, and hard work, we imagine. In the article below, we list just a few of the many reasons The Boss is, well, The Boss. 

5. His concerts are nearly twice as long as everyone else’s.

The River Tour launched on October 3, 1980, two weeks before the double-album itself hit stores. Springsteen used the opportunity not only to introduce new music to his audience, but to extend the runtime of his shows. A typical gig on the River Tour featured 30 songs, with some shows running as long as four hours. These marathon shows became a hallmark of Springsteen’s tours, showcasing the band’s remarkable ability to maintain energy, electricity, and endurance. Decades later, Springsteen still remains onstage longer than many frontmen half his age, with the E Street Band’s 2023 tour featuring an average length of two hours and 51 minutes. 

4. For 25 years, Springsteen and Michael Jackson shared the all-time record for the most Top 10 hits from one album.

Springsteen had already earned one Top 10 hit, “Hungry Heart,” by the time Born in the U.S.A. arrived in 1984, but no one could have predicted the success he’d enjoy with songs like “Dancing in the Dark,” “Glory Days,” and “My Hometown.” Born in the U.S.A. featured a dozen tracks, seven of which became Top 10 singles. Those numbers were unprecedented for a rock artist. Born in the U.S.A. wound up tying Michael Jackson’s Thriller—the highest-selling record of all time—as the album with the most Top 10 singles. The two albums shared the record until the 2020s, when Drake’s Certified Lover Boy and Taylor Swift’s Midnights both surpassed. Even so, Born in the U.S.A. remains the only rock ‘n’ roll record to enjoy that many hits. 

[RELATED: 8 of Bruce Springsteen’s Favorite Songs]

When he made his public debut with the 1973 album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., Springsteen’s wordy lyrics and folk-rock leanings earned comparisons to Bob Dylan. By the time Born to Run arrived in 1975, his sound had swelled to epic proportions, making room for grand arrangements that had more in common with Roy Orbison. Springsteen wasn’t just a street poet anymore; he was the voice for something bigger, writing songs that balanced larger-than-life rock ‘n’ roll with lyrics about the Everyman’s day-to-day struggle. Each album that followed found him revising his sound. There was the synthesized swagger of ’80s releases like Born in the U.S.A. and Tunnel of Love; the stripped-down Americana of The Ghost of Tom Joad and Western Stars; the layered pop rock of The Rising and Magic. Every album still sounded like Bruce Springsteen, of course, but his discography evolved, earning generations of new fans with each title. 

2. He’s an underrated guitar hero.

The E Street Band’s two lead guitarists, Nils Lofgren and Stevie Van Zandt, may get all the glory, but Springsteen is more than capable of cooking up his own fretwork firepower. He’s a frontman who can really play, too, and he approaches his instrument like a vocalist, coaxing unique sounds from the electric guitar and focusing on emotion as much as execution. Listen to the solo in “Streets on Fire,” or pay another visit to albums like The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle and Born to Run, both of which feature Springsteen as the band’s only guitarist. For the ultimate shred experience, witness “Prove It All Night ’78,” a mythic moment in the E Street Band’s concert history, featuring an extended guitar intro from the Boss. 

1. His songwriting champions the underdogs, the working class, and blue-collar Americans down on their luck. 

Springsteen makes no attempt to hide the fact that he’s a storyteller, not an autobiographer. He might have played a grease-splattered mechanic in the “I’m on Fire” video, but he never worked as one. He might’ve sung about working at a steel mill in “Youngstown,” but that never happened, either. “I made it all up,” he admitted during his one-man show, Springsteen on Broadway, which found him playing 267 shows in theaters usually reserved for productions like The Crucible or Oklahoma. “I’ve never held an honest job in my entire life! I’ve never done any hard labor. I’ve never worked 9 to 5.” That hasn’t stopped Springsteen from writing working-class anthems that ring true. By pairing bombastic music with narratives about regular Joes and desperate Everymen, he elevates the blue-collar experience, making the mundane monumental. 

Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images

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