Bruce Springsteen has always enjoyed paying tribute and boasting about those who have had a major influence on his music and indirectly helped shape his legendary career. From Woody Guthrie to Roy Orbison to Bob Dylan to Van Morrison, Springsteen owes a lot to many of the greats.
On the flip side, Bruce has influenced many of the world's best and brightest artists through the decades. As we celebrate his 70th birthday this month, here's a look at some of the more notable musicians and bands who owe their own debt of gratitude to "The Boss."
Arcade Fire does a lot of things well, especially when it comes to its conceptual work. Dark, melodic pieces, straight out of some of "The Boss'" more intimate and complex works like "The Ghost of Tom Joad." Arcade Fire leader Win Butler has often spoke about the influence Springsteen had on the band's second album, "Neon Bible." Back in 2007, Butler and wife Régine Chassagne joined Bruce on stage for his take on the album's “Keep The Car Running."
As talented English indie singer/songwriter Damon Gough (aka Badley Drawn Boy) told sfgate.com in 2007, he "owes his career to watching Bruce Springsteen" play "Thunder Road" on his television in 1984. Gough delivered a uniquely British take of that Springsteen classic and paid homage to his musical idol by titling his 2006 release "Born in the U.K."
There are various elements of Springsteen found in the works of Bon Iver, mostly via frontman Justin Vernon, who seems to channel the New Jersey rocker often. He's been vocal over the years of his penchant for the raw works of the "The Boss," especially the stripped-down, homemade feel of 1982's "Nebraska." Vernon is a story teller at heart and gets into his character and words as much as the music.
A Jersey boy like Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi was once visited on stage by Bruce at the Fast Lane in Asbury Park during the early 1980s. Bon Jovi's blue-collar, every-man lyrics, complete with characters and anthemic choruses, are totally Springsteen. In a lot of ways, Bon Jovi is the pop/hair band version of "The Boss." And like his Jersey compatriot, the band has a loyal fan base and a Hall of Fame career that's still going.
Really, the guy who's given us "Achy Breaky Heart" and, more recently, the remix of "Old Town Road," has some Springsteen in his blood? The influence comes in Cyrus' storytelling ability as a writer and more just than his country background. It does not hurt that Bruce is actually a fan of Cyrus' biggest hit and line-dancing favorite from 1982.
While there is a lot of credence to consider Springsteen and Earle as contemporaries, which is accurate, Earle has been candid about his appreciation for "The Boss." Earle is an exceptional songwriter, lyricist and a poet, following the path Bruce blazed for many after him. However, Earle has been doing it better than most for years.
Etheridge told Forbes about how her musical life changed when she bought "Born to Run" from Columbia House at 14 years old. She considers the album's epic finale, "Jungleland," her all-time favorite song, and the LP is one of the reasons she went down this path. They did get together for a turn at "Thunder Road" during an "Unplugged" session.
The great thing about Dave Grohl and his band is their constant praise for those who paved the way before them. In Grohl's case, classic rock had a huge influence on his music but also his live shows. Like that of Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band, a Foo Fighters live show is an experience. The whole band is part of the show, interacting with each other, bouncing around and talking with the crowd and each other.
Maybe not the most well-known band on this list, but this New Brunswick, New Jersey, outfit has been quite open about Springsteen's influence on the band's music, especially frontman Brian Fallon, who offers a lyrical snarl reminiscent of "The Boss." The band has infused his influential blue-collar lyrics and Jersey Shore musical attitude into its own post-punk/rock sound.
The band's second album and lapsed religion-themed "Separation Sunday" (2005), has often been lauded for its Springsteen-like sound and conceptual nature that involves characters by name. “Charlemagne in Sweatpants," even offers an ode to "The Boss." Vocalist Craig Finn is an above-average storyteller, conversationally, like Bruce has been know to be.
It's from a vocal standpoint that Hornsby often tends to draw comparisons to Springsteen. And that's not a bad thing. Hornsby is also a strong songwriter and downright great musician, who is as hardworking as they come, all traits that Springsteen still posses. The two have shared the stage on several occasions.
Don't let The Killers neo-new wave sound fool anybody: Lead singer Brandon Flowers is a big Springsteen fan. Songs like "When You Were Young" and even "Runaways" offer a Bruce touch, and Flowers is a poet who happens to be a rock star. Just like Springsteen. The two took to the stage for the classic "Thunder Road" at the 2009 Pinkpop Festival in the Netherlands.
Springsteen and Mellencamp, respectful of each other, were two of the biggest stars during the 1980s, though the latter was, and perhaps still is, unfairly considered a "poor-man's Springsteen." It's easy to see the influence of Springsteen in Mellencamp's middle-America, down-home lyrics and musical storytelling, though Mellencamp's sound tends to lean more toward 1950s rock 'n' roll and Motown.
"The Boss," himself," is a notable fan of the band, which is not too shabby. Perhaps the biggest Springsteen likeness The National harbors comes from a lyrical angle. The band's words can be a little darker, melancholy and complex, though still fitting well with its stellar ability to fuse hard-charging rock with strong melodies. Also, its version of Bruce's "Mansion on the Hill" is quite good.
Pearl Jam has always been known for — and proud of — the influence it's taken from classic rock. Frontman Eddie Vedder, especially, holds "The Boss" in high regard. The two have often appeared on stage together, with Vedder taking his turn on Springsteen's gems like "Atlantic City" and "My Hometown." Vedder, like one of his idols, is not afraid to use the stage as a pulpit for personal and political purposes.
Rage covered Springsteen's eerie "The Ghost of Tom Joad," and was most notably included on 2008's album of covers "Renegades." If that was not enough of an homage, guitarist Tom Morello played on Springsteen's 2012 "Wrecking Ball" album and "High Hopes" in 2014 and toured with the E Street Band in support of the latter work.
When Sleater-Kinney singer/guitarist Corin Tucker met Springsteen in Portland in 2016, she joyfully posted a picture of the two on Twitter. Turns out, he's a big fan of the girls as well. Though an indie band at heart, Sleater-Kinney delivers a hint of classic-rock goodness, and its version of "The Promised Land," off "Darkness on the Edge of Town," is highly unique.
Bruce and Bono are two giants of the music industry — to some of a younger generation, perhaps on the same level. The respect for each other is mutual (see the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductions), and Bono and his bandmates have talked about all they've learned from Springsteen over the years. Bono still seems to get a little giddy when in the presence of "The Boss," like he did back in 1987, when Springsteen joined U2 on stage.
Band leader and principal songwriter Adam Granduciel spoke to Rolling Stone in 2017 about how he fancied Springsteen. Particularly, the indie-tinged "The Ghost of Tom Joad." As we've seen quite often on this list, that specific Bruce effort tends to sit well with musicians who are also exceptional songwriters. Consider Granduciel in that category.
Many, many have covered Springsteen over the decades, and there are some who stand out more than the rest. Yorn's take on Bruce's 1980s smash "Dancing in the Dark" might be the best of the bunch. That's saying a lot, but his raw, stripped down, folksy version of this upbeat, pop-radio staple conjures up thoughts of how Springsteen might have demoed the song back in the day.
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