A music critic, Landau became Springsteen's producer in '75 and manager in '77.
"I'd written a favorable review forRolling Stoneof Bruce's second album, but I'd never seen him perform. I went to a club where he was playing in Cambridge [Massachusetts]. They'd put the article in the window. Bruce was outside the club, hopping up and down, trying to stay warm while he read the article. I strolled up to him and asked how the article was.
" 'Pretty good,' he said. 'This guy is usually pretty good.' There were 15 or 20 people in the club. Afterwards we had a chance to talk about the performance, which was fantastic. He called me the next day, and we talked for several hours. That was the beginning of a conversation that we're still having about how to relate to the world around us and how to nurture who you are and what you want to do in the context of a universe that may or may not be sympathetic or interested.
"A few months later I saw him perform at the Harvard Square Theatre. He had this incredibly innate connection to the innermost parts of rock music experience. Although I came to know how much effort went into it, he had the humility to make it look effortless. You feel like you're in the presence of this unique and incredibly honest and authentic voice."
NBC News Correspondent
Russert's dad, the late TV journalist Tim Russert, became an avid Springsteen fan after booking him to play at John Carroll University, Tim's alma mater, in 1975. Springsteen played "Thunder Road" via satellite at Russert's memorial in 2008.
"My father deeply identified with the blue-collar, working-class stories Springsteen tells in his music. They were all part of his life growing up in South Buffalo. The other attachment was the authenticity of the music. My dad always valued substance over style, and in a world of rock 'n' roll where you had Jimi Hendrix lighting guitars on fire and God knows what during disco and the '80s, you could identify with Springsteen: he never forgot where he came from. I find comfort in Bruce's music and, specifically, in 'Thunder Road.' "
Author and Vietnam Vet
Kovic's 1976 book Born on the Fourth of July inspired Springsteen to write the 1984 hit song "Born in the U.S.A."
"In the late 1970s I was living in Hollywood at the Sunset Marquis Hotel. I'd sleep in and then write every day. I'd take a break in the afternoon and sit at the pool to clear my head. One afternoon I was watching this young man in the pool, swimming up a storm. He looked familiar, like Bruce Springsteen. I went over to him in my wheelchair. 'Excuse me, you probably don't know me, but my name is Ron Kovic. I'm a Vietnam veteran, and I wrote a book called Born on the Fourth of July.'
"He looked surprised. 'You're that guy? I just read your book. I couldn't put it down.' Two or three days later I opened up the front door of my hotel room. An album and a bunch of tapes fell down. He had picked up Darkness on the Edge of Town and some of his earlier albums. He had written: 'If my music can touch you and move you as much as your book moved me, that will mean a lot to me. Bruce Springsteen.'
"He invited me to see him at Winterland in San Francisco. All of a sudden he told the story to the audience about how he picked up Born on the Fourth of July and how much it had meant to him. He went on to talk about how he met a guy named Ron Kovic. Then he sang 'Darkness on the Edge of Town.' He said, 'This one's for you, Ron.' I sat there in my wheelchair with tears in my eyes."
Raitt shared the stage with Springsteen for the No Nukes concert in 1979 and the 2004 Vote for Change tour.
"It was an incredible boost when Bruce committed to joining the No Nukes concerts. From the groundbreaking Amnesty International tour, to helping stop Contra aid in the '80s, to a steady stream of benefits, I don't know if any other American artist has made as profound a difference. I think he taps into the promise of who we want to be. In a world where persona is so carefully calculated, Bruce is the real deal. And people love him for it."
Springsteen wrote "Protection" for Summer's 1982 LP Donna Summer.
"My producer, Quincy Jones, called and said, 'I got a song for you called "Protection." Bruce is going to come over.' My husband, Bruce Sudano, just loved Bruce's music, so I had gotten very into it as well. When Bruce came into my house, he played the song. We sang it. He told me to make it my own.
"Bruce was humble. I think he always sees himself as a kid from Jersey. Then, when he's onstage, once he flips that switch, boy, it's like a tornado roars through there. You can tell by his words, you can tell by the rasp in his voice, that he's been through something, and behind that quiet there's a storm brewing.
"When Bruce Springsteen performs, you're getting a workingman. That grit tells you you don't get that way from nothing. You get that way from abuse, use, work, getting through things. When people see him onstage, they relate and align themselves with him, no matter where he goes in life, because he started in a place they all understand."
Lofgren has played with the E Street Band since 1984 (and offers online lessons through the Nils Lofgren Guitar School).
"When I joined the E Street Band, I moved into Bruce's house in New Jersey to get ready for the Born in the U.S.A. tour. He suggested we wake up and go for a leisurely five-mile jog every morning. We'd eat breakfast by 9:30, then get our tennis shoes on and run down near the Jersey Shore. Then I'd shower up and get on with my studies of the songs because we had these massive rehearsals headed our way. Early on in the rehearsals Bruce approached me. He knew I'd been doing a backflip while I played the guitar in my own show. He asked me: 'If you did it 100 nights, how many times are you going to fall?'
" 'Probably in 100 nights I might fall once on my ass and get embarrassed but not hurt,' I said.
" 'Okay, let's put it in the show,' he said.
"During a lot of the Born in the U.S.A. tour, I also did dive rolls across the stage. It takes quite a bit of sprint velocity to do them without your hands while you're playing the guitar so you don't crush your neck. One night he stopped me before I was going to do it. He gets down on all fours and dares me to dive over him. Like a fool I ran and did it. Over the next dozen shows it became a nightly bit. Then the voice of reason, Phil Dunphy, our trainer on the tour, pulled me and Bruce aside and informed us that we were out of our minds. If we kept this up there was going to be a paralyzed guitar player soon, and we'd better knock it off.
"Bruce is pretty consistent about working out daily and maintaining a high level of physical health. He's living proof it's not some voodoo. It's just a good work ethic and a reality check. If you're going to be 60 and do shows like this, it requires some work and energy."
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."
Senator John Kerry
2004 Presidential Candidate
Springsteen supported Kerry's campaign with 2004's Vote for Change tour.
"For the first time in his career, Bruce shed his public political neutrality and put his good name on the line campaigning with me in 2004. We stood together in front of crowds that stretched as far as the eye can see in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida, and his guitar pumped out our anthem, 'No Surrender,' with heart and grit and belief. But what you might not know is that in the aftermath of that bruising race, when I was pretty bruised myself, long after the crowds had gone away, Bruce was one of the first to visit me, and he brought that guitar I'd listened to on the campaign trail. That's the real deal—being there when it's hard and when the sun isn't shining. And you know that guitar he gave me remains my proudest possession of the whole campaign. In good times and bad, he had my back, and that's all the honor in your life you can ever hope for."
Director ofThe Wrestler
Mickey Rourke asked Springsteen to write the theme song for his 2008 comeback film, The Wrestler, which led to a meeting with Aronofsky.
"Mickey and Bruce met about 20 years ago—over beers at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park—but they hadn't been in touch for a long time. Mickey's had quite a hard trip since then. [In a letter] to Bruce, his brutal honesty resounded with the Boss.
"Next thing I know, we were in the front row at a Springsteen concert at Giants Stadium, surrounded by 80,000 people rocking out. After the show, Mickey introduced us and said, 'I'll leave you two guys alone. I know you have some business to talk.' I kinda lost my tongue, overwhelmed by stage fright. Pretty quick, Bruce pulled out an acoustic guitar and sang the tune. I remember thinking, 'I'm getting serenaded by the Boss in the Giants locker room—and he's singing an amazing song.' He had only read the script, but he completely captured the spirit. When Mickey first got a copy of the song, he listened to it about 80 times in a row. He loved it.
"The Boss did [the theme] for nothing because he wanted to help Mickey. He knew we couldn't afford him. But he felt Mickey was trying to redeem himself, so he made it work for us."