Happy Birthday, Boss: 'When You Listened to Bruce, You Became Cool'

Tha Author, doing his best Springsteen
One serene New York summer night a little over 40 years ago, I took a hit of acid and went to see Bruce Springsteen for the very first time. My expectations were as high as I hoped to be at around the same time Bruce and his band hit the stage. I hoped Bruce would leave me soul-shattered, in the best possible sense. The anticipation probably started in January of 1974, when I first put the needle down on The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle. I was in my last year of prep school, living in the suburbs and looking for something even more important than hip. Something authentic. Songs that had certainly been hinted at on Bruce's debut, but had not quite won over a kid caught between nice half-Jewish boy and juvenile delinquent, thankfully without any of that pesky jail time.

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Bruce Springsteen Photos!

Photo courtesy of Debra Rothenberg
New Jersey native Debra Rothenberg was 18 when she first photographed Bruce Springsteen in concert in 1980. (He was touring behind The River; she paid $30 for two scalped tickets that originally cost $8.50 each.) In the 33 years since, she has taken pictures of The Boss in concert at dozens of shows in the United States and Europe.

Rothenberg, a professional photographer who has shot for publications including Rolling Stone, Time, the New York Daily News and Q Magazine, recently released Bruce Springsteen In Focus: 1980-2012, a coffee table book containing her more than three decades worth of Springsteen images.

Here, in her own words, Rothenberg (whose favorite Springsteen album is Darkness On the Edge of Town, btw), tells the stories behind some of her favorite photos.

See also: Live: Bruce Springsteen Takes Care Of His Own At The Izod Center

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Radio Hits One: Bruce Springsteen And Mick Jagger Stop Making Pop Hits, Start Inspiring Them

It's been a busy year for Bruce Springsteen. In March, he released Wrecking Ball, his seventeenth studio album and tenth release to top the Billboard 200, and after packing in arenas across America throughout the spring, he took the E Street Band to Europe. His name is also in a top-40 entry on the Hot 100 for the first time in over a decade—but the funny thing is, the song's not his. Eric Church's "Springsteen" sits on the chart this week at No. 19, which was coincidentally also the peak position for Bruce's last pop hit, the Jerry Maguire-spawned ballad "Secret Garden," in 1997.

"Springsteen," a wistful midtempo number with lyrical nods to The Boss's classics "I'm On Fire" and "Born To Run," is North Carolina country star Eric Church's biggest Hot 100 hit to date. It also peaked at No. 3 on the Country Songs chart and is the third single from his third album, Chief, which topped the Billboard 200 last summer. It's a quiet, subtle song, and something of an unlikely crossover hit, aside from the fact that it pays tribute to such a famous singer. This isn't the first time a top 40 hit has been named for Springsteen, though—Rick Springfield got to No. 27 with "Bruce," a playful track about how irked he was when confused with a bigger star with a similar last name.

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Live From Jazzfest: New Orleans Celebrates Its Gift To The World

Al Green.
Just as Kermit Ruffins sang "Sunny Side of the Street" with trumpet in hand, an early morning sun shone powerfully across North Rampart Street in New Orleans onto Congo Square. Two centuries ago, enslaved Africans and free people of color drummed and danced here each Sunday, exerting their right to free expression as their masters prayed at church, seeding the beat of the earliest jazz and just about all New Orleans music to follow. Nowhere else in the North American colonies had slaves been allowed to play their drums, let alone freely assemble. For anyone with even a passing knowledge of local culture here, Congo Square means serious history and sacred ground.

Ruffins had a cooler full of Bloody Marys waiting in the wings. It wasn't yet 8 a.m. He doesn't often rise this early, let alone perform. It's unlikely that most of the several hundred people assembled before a temporary stage would typically have been up and out just then either, on the Monday morning following the first weekend of the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, where local and national stars filled ten stages through three full days.

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Live: Bruce Springsteen Takes Care Of His Own At The Izod Center

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Izod Center
Tuesday, April 3

Better than: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in any of the 49 other states.

At 11:06 p.m., seated in the press box at the Izod Center, it's hard not to like Bruce Springsteen. His last three songs have been, in order, "Out in the Street," "Born to Run," and "Dancing in the Dark," and he's currently reprising "People Get Ready" from earlier in the night. Now he's playing "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out," singing from on top of his piano, and you're standing behind what was your seat, probably having the best time you've had at a show in at least maybe a month or so. Then he cuts the song off after the line about the big man joining the band and the crowd applauds for what feels like well over a minute—probably the most touching thing you've seen at a show maybe all year.

But for you (the reader) what good is another hagiography, and besides, what good is that hagiography if it forces me to brush over the fact that first three-quarters of this show were, although brilliantly played, all kinds of messy and conflicted?

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100 & Single: Madonna's Chart Transformation Into A Classic-Rock Act

Whatever you thought of her performance at this year's Super Bowl, Madonna's halftime appearance had the desired effect: It drummed up awareness for her first album in four years, the longest recording gap of her career.

When the Billboard 200 album chart is tallied in the middle of this week, Madge's new disc MDNA is expected to dominate handily, with anticipated first-week sales of at least 300,000 copies. That tally would put MDNA solidly in the middle of the pack of Madonna studio-album debuts since the turn of the millennium—ranging from a low of 241,000 copies for 2003's American Life to a high of 420,000 for 2000's Music. All of these albums debuted atop the album chart, and MDNA will be her fifth consecutive No. 1 studio album, after Music, American Life, Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005) and Hard Candy (2008). That streak outdoes her previous three-album run of chart-toppers, Like a Virgin, True Blue and Like a Prayer, notched in her '80s heyday.

The debut of MDNA will also mean the album chart and the Hot 100 are simultaneously topped by recordings boosted by the 2012 Super Bowl. "We Are Young" by fun., heading toward its fifth week as Billboard's No. 1 song, hurtled up the chart in February after its appearance in a Chevy commercial that debuted during the game. Never, ever doubt the promotional prowess of America's national consumerist holiday.

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A View From The Bench: Bruce Springsteen's Legacy On Wrecking Ball And Jimmy Fallon

You don't expect a legacy artist to still be able to surprise you, to put out music 40 years later that is genuinely interesting and expansive and making a good honest attempt at being relevant. Not in the "Mick Jagger getting his young minions to curate the hottest young live music acts for the Stones opening slots" kind of relevant, but in the way of giving you a record you want to listen to over and over again because it's great, not out of obligation or so that you know all the songs for when you go to see them live.

Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball is surprising, innovative, and vital in a way that is both a blessing and a relief. The record is far from perfect—the production suffers in spots, which hurts a few tracks—but it's strong, with a few older songs that get remade in remarkable fashion. It's easy to pigeonhole the record as being some kind of bold new step for Springsteen when in reality all of the themes and elements brought to the forefront on Wrecking Ball have been around for years, if not decades.

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Live-Blogging The 2012 Grammys: Tributes, Tribulations, Skrillex, And The Return Of Adele

via Cats Who Look Like Skrillex
Will this cat win Best New Artist?
Welcome to Sound of the City's liveblog of the 54th Annual Grammys, coming to you live from a couch in Astoria. There are quite a few questions lurking around tonight's ceremony. Will Adele sweep the three major categories in which she's nominated, thus putting a cap on the megaselling, incredibly popular 21—and how will she sound in her live return? Will Skrillex (above, sorta) put a wub-wub-wub on the Best New Artist category? Will Bon Iver pout his way to the podium if he upsets Adele in Record or Song of the Year? Will Adam Levine upstage the Beach Boys when they share the stage? Will LL Cool J make at least 10 cross-promotional references to other CBS shows? Will Kanye West show up? Will the Whitney Houston tribute be okay? Tune in belooowwww!

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Six Songs That I Might Be OK With Waking Up To Every Morning If I Was Trapped In A Groundhog Day-Like Purgatorial Existence

Today is Groundhog Day, and while rodents on the East Coast are split on whether or not 2012 will actually see something resembling winter around these parts, one thing's for sure: People will probably watch the 1993 Harold Ramis-directed Bill Murray vehicle Groundhog Day, in which the comedian plays a weatherman resigned to relive February 2 over and over and over again until he learns how to be less of a jerk, and, by extension, more OK with himself and the people around him. (It's airing on CMT tonight, in case you were wondering.) In the film, the February 2 that Murray's Phil Connors is stuck inside opens with Sonny and Cher's 1965 chart-topper "I Got You, Babe," which hits its sweetly sappy chorus just as Connor's clock radio flips from 5:59 a.m. to 6:00. This got me thinking: If I was trapped in an existential purgatory that made me have to relive one day until I got a valuable life lesson about myself and the world around me through my thick skull, what song would I be OK with as far as a day-opening jam, albeit one that reminded me of being utterly trapped? Six candidates below. Feel free to nominate yours in the comments!

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Bruce Springsteen's New Single, And Four Other Songs That Might Show Up On Pazz & Jop 2012

Last night at midnight—just like the old days!—the new single from Bruce Springsteen, "We Take Care Of Our Own," premiered on the radio—just like the, oh, you know. The song, taken from Springsteen's forthcoming Wrecking Ball (out March 6), is a slow-build, string-spangled anthem that belies the Boss's recent time spent hanging around the Arcade Fire, while also . Call it "The Girls In The Suburbs' Clothes," maybe? Listen below.

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