New Orleans

New Orleans

Springsteen and his new Sessions Band hit the road to support We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, beginning in the birthplace of their sonic gumbo, New Orleans. This post-Hurricane Katrina Jazz Fest performance is an important night for Springsteen: aside from breaking in a new 20-piece band, it has been years since he has really had to prove himself to an audience.

He isn’t preaching to the choir for the first time in a long time; following Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, it is a decidedly non-partisan crowd. But Bruce and the Sessions players more than meet the challenge, laying the sun into the ground for a two-hour set that has the crowd eventually eating out of their hands, many with tears streaming down their faces. Springsteen talks about getting to town the previous day and heading down to the Lower Ninth: “I saw some things I never thought I’d see in an American city.” The emotional “My City of Ruins,” which begins the encore, might as well have been written on that visit; during the song, the whole packed fairgrounds field has hands in the air.

The Rising
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame

After years of inducting others and jamming with rock legends at the annual ceremony, Bruce Springsteen is officially welcomed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Bono gives the induction speech: “We call him ‘The Boss.’ Well, that’s a bunch of crap. He’s not the Boss. He works for us. More than a boss, he’s the owner. Because more than anyone else, Bruce Springsteen owns America’s heart.” “I stood on this stage,” Bruce says in his speech, “and I inducted Roy Orbison and Creedence Clearwater Revival and Bob Dylan, an artist whose music was a critical part of my own life.

And tonight I hope that my music served my audience half as well. If I succeeded in doing that, it’s been with the help of many, many kindred spirits along the way.” Though the E Street Band is not inducted with him, a controversial subject to the present day, Springsteen spends much of his own speech singing their praises: “Everybody wants to know how I feel about the band. Hell, I married one of ’em.” Finally, Springsteen brings the E Streeters onto the stage: “My wife, my great friends, my great collaborators, my great band: your presence tonight honors me, and I wouldn’t be standing up here tonight without you, and I can’t stand up here now without you. Please join me.” Though they reunited on a few occasions in 1995, their performance together on this night is the first of a new era: Springsteen will continue to take detours from time to time, but the E Street Band has been a going concern ever since.

Back on E Street

Back on E Street

Springsteen reconvenes the E Street Band, including both Nils Lofgren and Steve Van Zandt, at the Hit Factory in NYC to record new tracks for his first Greatest Hits effort. For Clarence Clemons, who was most shocked by the band’s break-up, “standing in front of the microphone playing with the E Street Band was the best present I ever got in my life.” The band spends Clemons’s January 11 birthday in the studio, recording together for the first time in nearly ten years. Ernie Fritz’s feature-length documentary, Blood Brothers, captures the studio reunion, as well as the Big Man’s cake.


And the Oscar Goes To…

Springsteen wins the Best Original Song Academy Award for “Streets of Philadelphia,” from Jonathan Demme’s film Philadelphia, becoming the first rock ’n roll artist to win an Oscar in this category. “This is the first song I ever wrote for a motion picture, so I guess it’s all downhill from here,” Bruce jokes in his acceptance speech. Propelled by a hip-hop rhythm that makes good on the promise of post-E Street Band experimentation, the song spends 15 weeks in the Top 40, the longest stay since “Dancing in the Dark,” nearly ten years prior.