Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Flashback: The Boss
For years, musical geniuses have been making history using Fender instruments. Many of the greats are featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which celebrated its 25th anniversary with a series of concerts in October 2009. Join us over the next few months as we take a look at some of those legendary artists and their Hall of Fame journeys.
Bruce Springsteen was inducted into the prestigious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the 14th annual induction dinner on March 15, 1999.
U2’s Bono served as his presenter, remarking, “He’s America’s writer and critic. It’s like in Badlands, he’s Martin Sheen and Terrence Malick.
“They call him the Boss but that’s a bunch of crap,” continued Bono. “He’s not the Boss; he works for us. More than a Boss, he’s an Owner, because more than anybody else, Bruce Springsteen owns America’s Heart.”
America fell in love with Springsteen soon after 1975′s Born to Run, an album that highlights the despair and struggles of the working-class while also offering hope, salvation and the chance for escape.
Themes of inequality have continued to permeate Springsteen’s body of work—16 studio albums, four live albums, and four compilation albums—from his indictment of the treatment of Vietnam vets in “Born in the U.S.A” to his sympathetic portrayal of a gay man dying of AIDS in his Academy-award winning “Streets of Philadelphia” to 1995′s The Ghost of Tom Joad and its somber stories about immigrant life to his reflections on the 9/11 attacks with his 2005 album, The Rising.
The Jersey Shore native caught his big break in 1972 when he landed an audience with Columbia Records’ executive John Hammond. Alternating between the guitar and piano, Springsteen won over Hammond with 12 originals, earning a deal with the record label he’s remained with ever since.
After catching a Springsteen set back in 1974, ex-Rolling Stone critic Jon Landau, famously wrote, “I saw rock and roll future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”
Landau may have been the first to say so, but not the last. Springsteen is often credited with rejuvenating rock and roll during a period in the ’70s otherwise dedicated to soft-pop sensibilities.
Springsteen was first inspired to take up music as a 7-year old after seeing Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show, and at 13, he bought his first guitar. His mother upgraded her son’s instrument when he was 16, a story Springsteen documented in his song “The Wish.” Springsteen repeated the tale during his induction speech.
“I’d like to thank my mother, Adele, for that slushy Christmas Eve … for that Christmas Eve and night like the one outside, when we stood outside the music store and I pointed to that Sunburst guitar and she had that 60 bucks and I said, ‘I need that one, Ma.’ She got me — she got me what I needed,” said Springsteen.
The guitar mentioned in “The Wish” may be Springsteen’s most sentimental instrument but shortly after signing his record deal, he purchased his most famous — a 1953 Fender Esquire®, a hybrid of a Fender Esquire neck and a Fender Telecaster® body. The guitar achieved iconic status after being featured on the covers of Born to Run, Live 1975-1985, Human Touch and Greatest Hits, and was his guitar of choice during his nationally televised Super Bowl halftime show performance last February.
In the early ’90s, Springsteen purchased a 1952 Re-Issue Fender Telecaster that replaced his Esquire on the road during The Rising tour. That same tour, Springsteen also began playing a ’53 Fender Telecaster Natural and a ’53 ReIssue Fender Telecaster in two-color Sunburst.
Onstage, Springsteen has also played Telecasters from ’54, ’58 and ’63.
Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello on the Sundance Channel
Photo credit: Ken Woroner/(c) 2009 Tri-Fi 2 Productions Inc./Chatting
According to the November 1992 issue of Musician magazine, his black ’63 Tele was originally rented as a prop for a photo shoot in New York. Later on, Springsteen decided he wanted to purchase the guitar, but all he knew was that it was a “black Tele with a naked lady.” By the time his camp got in touch with the photographer to find out where it was rented, it had already been sold. Springsteen eventually purchased it from whomever had bought it.
In the studio, Springsteen has also used a Fender Stratocaster® gifted to him by Robbie Robertson, but the rocker has an unwavering affinity to his Telecaster guitars.
“When that big rock ‘n’ roll clock strikes 12, I will be buried with my Tele on,” Springsteen once told the LA Times.
In the final verse of “The Wish,” Bruce sings “Last night we all sat around laughing at the things that guitar brought us. And I layed awake thinking ’bout the other things it’s brought us.”
Springsteen followers worldwide can likewise be grateful for the music that the Boss has brought us with his guitars.