Earle says Springsteen inspired him to write the songs for Guitar Town, the first of his 13 albums. Known for his opposition to the death penalty, Earle contributed "Ellis Unit One" to the Dead Man Walking soundtrack, which featured Springsteen's title track.
"I was in Nashville for 12 or 13 years and never got a record deal. Then, in 1985, I saw something on the 'Born in the USA' tour that made everything click for me. I watched Bruce turn a 20,000-seat arena at Middle Tennessee State University into a coffeehouse. He brought everything down to this conversational level. He told stories. I realized that I could apply skills that I had learned in coffeehouses to a bigger audience and to fronting a band. I went home and wrote 'Guitar Town' to be the opening of that record. I finally got a record deal and had a career.
"I didn't meet Bruce until 1988 when my third record came out. We were playing the Palace in L.A. Someone said 'Springsteen and John Fogerty just came in.' I'd been playing [Springsteen's] 'Nebraska' encores on that tour. My steel player came back and said, 'You're not going to play "Nebraska," are you?'
" 'F_ _ yeah, I'm going to play it,' I said. And I did.
"Afterward, Bruce walks into my dressing room and the first thing he says to me was, 'Ballsy cover, man.' It was pretty overwhelming.
"Bruce was the last man standing in the '80s. I think we could have forgotten about how powerful songs were, as disco had a stranglehold on everything. I think Bruce being there, pounding away at it and making those records during that era, sort of helped the idea of the singer/songwriter survive."
President William Jefferson Clinton
A sax player himself, Clinton became a Boss fan early in his political career.
"Bruce Springsteen's music has influenced generations and provided an authentic soundtrack to the lives of hardworking Americans for decades. But equally as iconic as his anthology is his enormous support for progressive causes, from giving back to the communities in his home state of New Jersey to advocating for issues such as poverty or human rights globally. He's always willing to lend his talents and music to support the good causes of others, and arguably has done even more for the world than he has for rock and roll."
The widow of firefighter Dave Fontana, who died at age 37 in the World Trade Center attack (on the couple's eighth wedding anniversary), Marian founded the September 11th Families Association. Now 43, she wrote a 2005 memoir, A Widow's Walk, with a novel, The Middle of the Bed, due for release in 2010.
"I heard a lot of 9/11 songs after 9/11, obviously, but I just felt that his were so much more poetic and subtle lyrically. It wasn't blatant, but he really captured the sadness and united feeling that everybody was having at that time. Springsteen made 'The Rising' a personal love story. He gets into people's shoes, whether they have AIDS or whatever it is he's writing about. The songs are so personal that if you were involved in 9/11, you can go, 'Oh, I get it, empty sky means the World Trade Towers are gone.' I read it on the literal level of the firefighters going into the building, but also on a metaphoric level—that people carry things on their back and act heroically in life. When he sings in 'Empty Sky,' 'In the bed where you used to be,' of course I heard it the 9/11 way and was very emotionally moved by it—and continue to be.
"I was really surprised by how tuned in he was, not just to the event itself, but politically and emotionally in ways that I didn't originally think he was when I first heard him on the radio as a kid. It's interesting to see how he's evolved. We're such an ageist society, but I really believe that you get more interesting, especially creatively, as you get older. He's just gotten better and better. We've only begun to see all the things Bruce Springsteen can do."