He has always had a way of harnessing hope and despair, promises and memory. His songs are filled with fast cars, stinging love and the vast American landscape.
Whether strumming a lone guitar or backed by the force of the E Street Band at full gallop, Bruce Springsteen’s vision of the country has helped us figure out who we are — so much so that the label of “rock star” seems almost superficial now.
This month, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum examines the music icon’s career with its new exhibitFrom
Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen.
“We’ve wanted to do it for a long time,” says Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum vice president of exhibitions and curatorial affairs Jim Henke. “With Bruce and all the stuff he’s doing with the Super Bowl and the Obama [campaign] and the new album and tour — it worked out where the timing was right on both ends.”
Along with bringing fans within arm’s reach of the tools of Springsteen’s trade, the exhibit also delves into the musical roots of the man known to his fans simply as The Boss.
It stretches back to his first professional band, the Castiles, which Springsteen joined while he was still a sophomore in high school, and follows his progression to the group Steel Mill, which found him performing alongside future E Street Band members Steven Van Zandt and Danny Federici.
The group at one point relocated to San Franciso but ended up moving back east to New Jersey. Soon after, Springsteen began writing music by himself, ultimately recording his first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., for Columbia Records.
“A lot of the guys who ended up being in the E Street Band ended up playing on it, and they started touring, and that was the evolution of [the E Street Band],” Henke says.
The Rock Hall exhibit presents Springsteen’s career chronologically and thematically, with sections dedicated to touring and songwriting. It includes the tape machine he used to recordNebraska and the table where he’s written most of his songs over the years. But of all the personal items Springsteen loaned, the most surprising of all was the Fender guitar made famous on the cover ofBorn To Run.
“It shocked even the people I was dealing with in his organization,” Henke recalls. “One day I got an e-mail that said ‘Jim, I can’t believe this, but Bruce wants you to have the Fender Esquire.’ ”
From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen
opens April 1. For more information, visit rockhall.com.