By Andrew Lambert
New Jersey has had its fair share of artists. The “armpit” of America has produced legends from Bon Jovi to Frank Sinatra, My Chemical Romance to Fetty Wap, SZA to Gaslight Anthem, Redman to The Misfits, and even A$AP Rocky is technically from the Garden State. All of these artists have made amazing contributions to music, but none are from our home, our area, our stomping grounds… the shore. There is one artist, however, who reigns from these parts, and he is arguably king of them all, and he goes by the name Bruce Springsteen, or “The Boss”.
Bruce’s humble beginnings began in my hometown, and went to high school practically in my backyard. The Freehold native’s childhood house, which lies on 39 Institute Street in Freehold, can still be seen today, but it just looks like any other house on that street. When his mother took out a $60 loan to buy Bruce a guitar, he never looked back. He was a loner in high school, attending Freehold Borough, and was often described by teachers as an outsider who wanted nothing more than to play his guitar. He felt so out of place, he didn’t even attend his own high school graduation.
Making his music career known by doing gigs at Upstage Club, Bruce Springsteen firmly marked his territory in the Jersey Shore when he released his debut album in 1973, appropriately titled “Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.”. Bruce has also performed at the Stone Pony over 100 times in his career, making Asbury Park know who he is.
People like to think our area is all fist bumping and guidos, but we are the complete opposite. Yes, there is a strong Italian presence in Monmouth County, but same goes for Irish, Middle-Eastern, Hispanic, and African-Americans. We have more farms than one could imagine, some of the nicest suburbs around, some pretty competitive football, lots of horses, mansions and ghettos, and the most beautiful beaches in the country. Whether you’re listening to country, rap, rock, or just surfing to some mellow tunes, you can identify with MoCo, and Bruce Springsteen took that to heart.
Bruce’s signature sound is classic rock, mixed with some folk, mixed with some laid back vibes, which most accurately depict the area. Ordinary life in beach towns like Belmar, Asbury Park, and Long Branch are the inspiration for a bunch of his tracks, but so is the tough economic struggle seen in those times in areas like Freehold, Red Bank, and Neptune. Bruce also let his country roots shine in some songs, which came from areas like Howell, Colts Neck, and 1970’s Manalapan, which were mainly just open fields and farms. The fusion of these three vastly different lifestyles made for a completely original sound that the world had never heard before, and made Bruce not only a legend worldwide, but also a legend among people from his area, because instead of picking just one of those things to make music about, he hit every corner of what made Monmouth County what it was. His truly unique style is all because of the unique and diverse area we live in.
Bruce since then has become one of the most legendary musicians of all time, and in 1999, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. His famous E Street Band was also inducted, and if you’re ever in Belmar, you should go on over to 1107 E Street, where the band rehearsed. The house belonged to the mother of David Sancious, who played the keyboard for the band. Tourists from all over come by the house to take pictures.
Bruce Springsteen may have been born to run, but his roots will forever be laid right here at the shore, with Freehold, Asbury Park, and Belmar holding special places in his heart. When he is not in his mansion in Colts Neck, he is often seen walking around Red Bank, or shopping at Tuscany Italian Specialties, which lies on the border of Freehold and Marlboro.
Allow The Boss to inspire you to take the thunder road, join the rising, dance in the dark, and grow some love for your hometown. We live in a special area here which often gets taken for granted. Bruce never lost sight of the beauty in this area, and neither should we.