Life and career
Springsteen was born in a hospital in Long Branch, New Jersey. He was raised in neighboring Freehold. His father, Douglas Frederick Springsteen, was a bus driver of Dutch and Irish ancestry. His mother, Adele Ann Zirilli, was a legal secretary of Italian ancestry. He has an older sister, Virginia, and a younger sister, Pamela. Pamela Springsteen had a brief film career, but left acting to pursue still photography full time.
Raised a Roman Catholic, Springsteen attended the St. Rose of Lima parochial school in Freehold Borough, where he was at odds with both the nuns and other students, even though much of his later music reflected a deep Catholic ethos and included many rock-influenced, traditional Irish-Catholic hymns.
In ninth grade he transferred to the public Freehold High School, but did not fit in there either. He completed high school but felt so uncomfortable that he skipped his own graduation ceremony. He briefly attended Ocean County College, but dropped out.
Springsteen had been inspired to take up music at the age of seven after seeing Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show. At 13, he bought his first guitar for $18; later, his mother took out a loan to buy the 16-year-old Springsteen a $60 Kent guitar, an event he later memorialized in his song "The Wish".
In 1965, he went to the house of Tex and Marion Vinyard, who sponsored young bands in town. They helped him become the lead guitarist of The Castiles, and later lead singer of the group. The Castiles recorded two original songs at a public recording studio in Brick Township, New Jersey and played a variety of venues, including Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village. Marion Vinyard said that she believed Springsteen when, as a young man, he said he was going to make it big.
From 1969 through early 1971, Springsteen performed around New Jersey with guitarist Steve Van Zandt, organist Danny Federici and drummer Vini Lopez in a band called Child, later renamed Steel Mill. They went on to play the mid-Atlantic college circuit, and also briefly in California. During this time Springsteen also performed regularly at small clubs in Asbury Park and along the Jersey Shore, quickly gathering a cult following. Other acts followed over the next two years, as Springsteen sought to shape a unique and genuine musical and songwriting style: Dr Zoom & the Sonic Boom (early-mid 1971), Sundance Blues Band (mid 1971), and The Bruce Springsteen Band (mid 1971-mid 1972). With the addition of pianist David Sancious, the core of what would later become the E Street Band was formed, with occasional temporary additions such as horns sections, "The Zoomettes" (a group of female backing vocalists for "Dr Zoom") and Southside Johnny Lyon on harmonica. Musical genres explored included blues, R&B, jazz, church music, early rock'n'roll, and soul. His profilic songwriting ability, with more words in some individual songs than other artists had in whole albums, brought his skill to the attention of several people who were about to change his life: new managers Mike Appel and Jim Cretecos, and legendary Columbia Records talent scout John Hammond, who, under Appel's pressure, auditioned Springsteen in May 1972.
Even after gaining international acclaim, Springsteen's New Jersey roots reverberated in his music, and he routinely praised "the great state of New Jersey" in his live shows. Drawing on his extensive local appeal, he routinely sold out consecutive nights in major New Jersey and Philadelphia venues and, much like the Grateful Dead, his song lists varied significantly from one night to the next. He also made many surprise appearances at The Stone Pony and other shore nightclubs over the years, becoming the foremost exponent of the Jersey Shore sound.