The self-proclaimed "number one Bruce Springsteen fan" directed Philadelphia, for which Springsteen composed the Academy Award-winning theme song "The Streets of Philadelphia" in 1993.
"When I was doing Philadelphia, I called Neil Young to get him to write a real kick-ass, American-dude anthem that would put all the homophobic white males who had come to the movie in a reassured mode. A week later I got this hauntingly beautiful, delicate song called 'Philadelphia' that was at the end of that movie. It was extraordinary. But we still needed that reassuring, hard-driving song. So I got in touch with Springsteen. I leveled with him. You know you've got to level with the Boss. I sent him the movie with Neil's music. He said, 'Okay, I'll send you something back in a week or so.'
"The tape arrived. My wife and I got in the car and put the cassette in. We started driving. Here comes 'The Streets of Philadelphia.' I had to pull over because we were both so overwhelmed. I thought, 'Bruce Springsteen trusts this movie and the audience more than I do. Enough with the anthem already.'
"Bruce is the greatest American filmmaker who has yet to make his first film."
In 1999, Diallo's 23-year-old son, Amadou, a Guinean immigrant, was shot and killed by four New York City plainclothes officers, who mistook him for a rape suspect and fired 41 rounds. Springsteen wrote a song about it, "American Skin (41 Shots)."
"The first time I heard the whole song was at Madison Square Garden. One of my friends contacted Bruce's management, and he invited us to meet him backstage. He hugged me in a very warm, affectionate way. He also introduced his wife and members of his band. I was stunned because I thought, 'He's going to come and be like this big celebrity singer.' He escorted us to sit in the VIP section. We listened to the music. It really got into my heart and soul.
"I never expected to hear from him after that. But he did something that I have never shared with the public. He sent us pictures that he took with us, and he donated money in Amadou's honor for scholarships at four colleges in New York City."
Breitweiser lost her husband, Ronald, in the attacks on the World Trade Center. She and fellow activists known as the Jersey Girls fought for the creation of the government's 9/11 Commission.
"I got introduced to Bruce the last night before the 2004 election. He said, 'I followed everything that you and [the Jersey Girls] did. Every time you had a setback, I was rooting you on, praying for you.'
"WhenThe Rising came out [in 2002] I was just so busy with so many other things. When I finally listened to it, it was overwhelming. It truly captures what it was like to have lost someone on 9/11. I felt like an older brother was giving me a comforting hug and saying, 'It's going to be okay.' "
Longtime Friend and Photographer
Stefanko's work with the Boss includes two album covers in addition to a 2003 book, Days of Hopes and Dreams: An Intimate Portrait of Bruce Springsteen (Billboard Books).
"Bruce is a great photographer. When we started working together in 1978, [we were] in the darkroom and I had finished shooting a session forNebraska. He saw me project the light onto the photographic paper and put the paper into the developer, and he saw the image come up. He slapped me on the shoulder and said, 'Frank, this is magic.' And I said, 'No, this is photography; this is darkroom chemistry.' And he says, 'No, it's darkroom magic.'
"He was fascinated by the medium and soon got his camera. Riding in my car he'll notice unusual things—weird Jersey billboards, funny signs on the sides of diners—and it's all registering. A [nonphotographer] will just walk by and never see it. Bruce travels all over the world, taking pictures—it's quite a collection of work. Will he ever show it? I don't know. He doesn't make a fuss over it. But I know he has that artist's eye—his eyes, his brain, they're always working."