The artist Bruce Springsteen “lived on” during the 1970s

For decades now, Bruce Springsteen has been considered one of the great American songwriters, and for good reason. He fuses a natural ability with a love of the greats, creating anthemic music that has provided a welcome soundtrack to the blue-collar American experience. Categorising his music, the New Jersey native once said: “I spent most of my life as a musician measuring the distance between the American Dream and American reality.”

It makes sense that Bruce Springsteen followed such a socially conscious, almost folk angle with his work, as two of his most significant heroes are perhaps the greatest troubadours America has ever seen, aside from their disciple, Bob Dylan. These are Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie, and although their music might have been thematically quite different, they were both invaluable for developing the country’s folk traditions.

Springsteen has placed great importance on stumbling across Williams’ Greatest Hits, which opened his eyes to a new creative area. He once told Rolling Stone: “It would have been 1978. I went out and bought a Hank Williams Greatest Hits, played it on my little stereo in Asbury(?) Park over and over again. I don’t remember what made me go out to buy Hank Williams’ greatest hits because it took me quite a while before I recognised it as being an invaluable piece of music history”.

Elsewhere, during a 2012 keynote address at South by Southwest, Springsteen revealed how he “lived on” the Hank Williams Greatest Hits during the late 1970s.

“I remember sitting in my little apartment,” he recalled, “listening to Hank Williams’ Greatest Hits over and over. And I was trying to crack his code because at first it just didn’t sound good to me. But slowly, slowly my ears became accustomed to its beautiful simplicity and its darkness and depth. And Hank Williams went from archival to alive for me before my, before my very eyes. And I lived, I lived on that for a while in the late seventies.”

In his 2016 autobiography, Born to Run, Springsteen expanded on how the blue-collar sounds of Hank Williams, Guthrie and others were monumental for his personal and creative development. He said: “I began to find some inspiration in the working-class blues of the Animals, pop hits like the Easybeats’ ‘Friday On My Mind,’ and the country music I’d so long ignored. Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie: here was music that emotionally described a life I recognised, my life, the life of my family and neighbours.”

‘The Boss’ continued: “Here was where I wanted to make my stand musically and search for my own questions and answers. I didn’t want out. I wanted in. I didn’t want to erase, escape, forget, or reject. I wanted to understand.”

Watch Bruce Springsteen cover Hank Williams’ ‘Wedding Bells’ in 1978 below.

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