While quite a few singers qualify as a "rock star", just a handful merit the title of rock icon. Bruce Springsteen has more than proven he is one of the latter. Following the release of Born In The USA, he drew over 100,000 adoring fans to a 1985 gig in Ireland's Slane Castle - thought to be the second-largest gathering in the country's history.
Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen was born in Freehold, New Jersey, on September 23, 1949. He grew up in a normal, middle-class family and, like so many other youngsters, decided to take up the guitar. "Music is my way of keeping people from looking through and around me," he said later.
After finishing high school he moved to New York city and made an ill-fated attempt to break into the city's folk scene. Disheartened, he returned home and began performing with a series of unknown bands before an opening came up with popular local outfit The E-Street Band. After being signed to a record label, the group released several albums which enjoyed critical acclaim but little commercial success.
"We were all playing anything we could to be part of the scene," says bandmate Steve Van Zandt. "West Coast stuff, the English thing, R&B and blues. Bruce would say 'I'm going home tonight to write a great song', and he did. He was the Boss then and he's the Boss now He'd come to rehearsals and write five songs in a day."
Bruce's talent was starting to draw attention, and in 1974 the 25-year-old finally caught the attention of the music world. His charismatic live performances had got people talking, and when, later that year, he released the album Born To Run the response was immediate. "I've seen rock 'n' roll's future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen," declared Rolling Stone critic John Landau. In the years that followed albums like Darkness On The Edge Of Town and The River made him an international star.
The boy from New Jersey seemed to have realised the dreams of every aspiring rocker, but little did he know that the height of his stardom was still to come. With Born In The USA he turned his writing talents to the struggle of the working man and his growing disillusion with American politics. The folk influence that had characterised his music was replaced with a pure rock'n'roll sound His fans loved it, America loved it, the world loved it. In fact, despite its anti-patriotic sentiments, even Ronald Reagan loved it!
Soon afterwards, however, his marriage disintegrated, and his next recording, Tunnel Of Love, took on a more sombre tone, tackling the themes of broken relationships and emotional struggles. He also split with The E-Street band and released a series of solo albums before winning an Academy Award and an incredible four Grammys for 1993's mournful Streets Of Philadelphia.
The song won him a whole new generation of fans who stayed with him as he returned to his folk roots with the acoustic The Ghost Of Tom Joad and the retrospective 18 Tracks. In 2002's The Rising, inspired by the September 11 attacks, Bruce examines the emotional and political aftermath of the tragedy.
"You have to come to grips with the real horrors that are out there," he says. "And then all people have is hope. That's what brings the next day and whatever that day may bring."
Bruce lives in a 19th-century farmhouse in New Jersey with his second wife Patty Scialfa and their three children, Jessica Rae, Evan James and Sam.