The musician Bruce Springsteen called “the father of my country”

Only a handful of artists have been able to write songs as singular as Bruce Springsteen. Although ‘The Boss’ was just as likely to give some outstanding songs away throughout his career, his greatest strength was in articulating his gruff working-class experience to the people whenever he performed, often crafting tales about the everyman who is determined to live up to their dreams no matter what the cost. While Springsteen was always a true rock and roll poet, he owed a lot to the great artists who laid the groundwork for him.

For as long as Springsteen could remember, he was always looking to become a rock star in a band. First inspired when he listened to the sounds of The Rolling Stones, Springsteen was determined to turn himself into a warped version of Keith Richards, playing the kind of rock and roll that excited girls and pissed off parents around the country. Outside of the raw sonic side of his sound, he was just as interested in the lyrical side of rock as well.

Growing up in the same period that birthed artists like Roy Orbison, Springsteen was initially knocked out by the singer’s ability to create tales of heartache, sounding halfway between a hardened rock and roll badass and a long-lost lover crying himself to sleep. Although Springsteen found a kindred spirit in Orbison’s music, he found a way forward when listening to Bob Dylan.

Coming out of the Greenwich Village folk scene, Dylan was never anyone’s ideal image of what a rock star was supposed to be. Wearing an acoustic guitar and harmonica, Dylan’s music catered towards folk sounds, writing vicious political screeds against those who preached injustice.

When talking to Rolling Stone about his upbringing, Springsteen would hold up Dylan as a symbol of what the American rock star was supposed to be, saying, “I was very influenced by Dylan. I always say he’s the father of my country. He initially provided me with a picture of a country that I recognised. One that feels real, feels like the truth”.

Even though Springsteen idolised the idea of Dylan as a rock star, he didn’t get into his folk material until after the fact, having jumped on during the period when Dylan expanded his horizons with tracks like ‘Like a Rolling Stone’. By the time Springsteen made original music, though, the Dylan tag would become an albatross around his neck.

From his first few albums, Springsteen would pick up a reputation as the working-class conduit for Dylan, writing songs with characters just like his idol, only with a dash of sympathy for those caught on the wrong side of the tracks. While Springsteen may have had Dylan fans chasing him down, Born to Run was when he found his identity, working with the E Street Band until they created stunning pieces of art practically descendants of the New Jersey boardwalk.

Despite the identity crisis at the start of his career, Springsteen would later recall how much Dylan played a part in his musical development, explaining, “I want people to get the same experience from listening to one of my records as I had when I listened to Highway 61 Revisited. The idea that something was revealed to them that was fundamentally true and essential, and gave you a view of your world, your country, your town, your neighbours, your family”.

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