Musician Nils Lofgren is turning 70

E Street Band and Crazy Horse

Nils LofgrenNils Lofgren is quite possibly a musician you’ve never of, even though he’s in the Rock and Hall of Fame. He’s the epitome of the working musician.

“Along with his work as a solo artist, he has been a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band since 1984, a member of Crazy Horse, and founder/frontman of the band Grin.”

He appears on a number of albums that I own. With Neil Young, that would be After the Gold Rush (1970), Tonight’s the Night (1975), Trans (1982), and Unplugged (February 1993). For Bruce, that would include Live/1975-85 (1986), Tunnel of Love (1987), The Rising (2002), Magic (2007), Working on a Dream (2009), Wrecking Ball (2012), and High Hopes (2014).

But he never became a “star.” He was a two-time member of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band. “In December 2018 PBS NewsHour aired a 10-minute career retrospective Nils Lofgren: 50 Years of ‘just being a guy in the band.’”


After his group Grin “failed to hit the big time, and were released by their record company,” he recorded some solo albums. I have exactly one of them.

His eponymous first solo album “was critically praised at the time of its release, most notably in a 1975 Rolling Stone review by Jon Landau. The 1983 Rolling Stone Record Guide said it was a ‘tour de force of unquenchable vitality and disarming subtlety.’

“In 2007, nearly 32 years after the release of Nils Lofgren, the album was again praised by Rolling Stone in the ‘Fricke’s Picks’ column, where David Fricke said it was one of 1975’s best albums. The album was on the Billboard 200 chart for nine weeks and peaked at number 141 on May 10, 1975.” #141.

When I was working at FantaCo, running the mail order, some guy at Rykodisc would send me free music. I believe that this album was one of them, although it was re-released in 1990, according to the Wikipedia article, and I left FantaCo in 1988.

Cry Tough (1976) got to #32, I Came To Dance (1977) to #36, Night after Night (1977 live double albums) to #44.

“With mainstream success continuing to elude Lofgren, A and M brought in Bob Ezrin in 1979, to oversee Nils. Ezrin was known for his successes with Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, and Kiss. Lofgren: ‘The label said they wanted to bring in co-writers, and I said that I didn’t do that. Ezrin said, ‘What about Lou Reed?’ And I said, ‘Well, yeah, okay. That would be cool.'” The album reached #54, and he never had another album crack the Top 100 except Night Fades Away (#99 in 1981).

Commercial success isn’t everything

In 2014, he as part of the E Street Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “Known for backing Bruce Springsteen in his storied performances, the E Street Band is a gang of musicians bursting with skill, soul, and endurance.”

The Springsteen page notes. “In 1984, following the departure of Steven Van Zandt, Lofgren joined the E Street Band just prior to the launch of the enormous, globetrotting Born in the U.S.A. tour. Throughout the 156-date monster Lofgren became known not only for his scorching guitar work but his gift for stage-worthy acrobatics and theatrics — which makes sense, as in high school Lofgren had been a competitive gymnast.

“Lofgren kept up both roles for the Tunnel of Love Express tour in 1988… And when the E Street Band reconvened in 1999, Springsteen diplomatically answered the question of which guitarist would be brought back into the fold by including both Van Zandt and Lofgren.”

Check out his website. Also this article: Nils Lofgren talks ‘Bonus Tracks,’ Neil Young, Keith Richards and Rolling Stones near miss.” And this one: Nils Lofgren On Playing With Bruce Springsteen And Neil Young, 52 Years On The Road And More.


When You Dance, I Can Really Love – Neil Young
Back It Up 
If I Say It, It’s So 
Keith, Don’t Go (Ode to the Glimmer Twin)
Valentine – Nils Lofgren & Bruce Springsteen

You should go to Youtube and search Nils Lofgren Bruce Springsteen or Nils Lofgren Neil Young. Oodles of good stuff.

Nils Lofgren turns 70 on June 21.

Oct. rambling: idealism, cynicism

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Movie review: Blinded by the Light

Bruce Springsteen IS the Boss

Blinded by the Light (2019_film_poster)My wife and I were intrigued enough to go see the film Blinded by the Light on what turned out to be the day before it left the Spectrum Theatre in Albany. It wasn’t there very long.

The premise is that Javed (movie newcomer Viveik Kalra) is a Muslim young man in England. His family, including parents Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) and Noorhad (Meera Ganatra), had emigrated from Pakistan. Javed is finding life at school and home disspiriting. The overt racism he encounters on his way home in the country run by Margaret Thatcher made it worse.

Then, in the lunchroom and out of the blue, a Sikh young man named Roops (Aaron Phagura) lends Malik two cassettes by Bruce Springsteen and promises him that it will change his life. And it does.

The Boss’ words have liberated his creative vision. In doing so, he butts heads with his strict and controlling traditional father. What does this music of this Jewish American – “he’s not Jewish!” – have to do with them? What Bruce wrote related to the working class.

His confidence also helps him attract the attention of his classmate, Eliza (Nell Williams). A scene with Malik, Eliza, and her parents was painfully believable. Malik’s relationship with Eliza made the lyrics wrote for the band of his best friend Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman) more believable. Other pivotal people in Maloik’s life include his sisters, his teacher and a neighbor.

Blinded by the Light is based on Sarfraz Manzoor’s memoir Greetings from Bury Park, published in 2007. Manzoor co-wrote the script with director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) and her husband Paul Mayeda Berges.

This film has surface similarities with Yesterday: South Asian involved with a massively successful musician. It’s a very different film, stylistically.

Bruce Springsteen has given his thumbs up to the project. He loved Manzoor’s book and showed up at the premiere, even playing at the afterparty.

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote: “Even when it feels as if we’ve seen this movie before, we’ve never seen it set to the sounds of the Boss, and we’ve never seen it from the point of view of this particular terrific kid and his family.” I highly recommend Blinded by the Light.

Bruce Springsteen turns 70

“the writer has made one promise”

Bruce Springsteen
When Bruce Springsteen made the covers of the magazines TIME and Newsweek in the same week in 1975, I thought his career was pretty much doomed.

I became even more convinced when it took nearly three years between his third album, Born to Run, and Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Bruce put out a double album, The River, in 1980, which actually has a Top 10 single. So naturally, he follows it with the fine, if stark Nebraska, which did OK commercially.

Then the massive commercial and artistic album Born in the USA in 1984. Bruce had to tell Ronald Reagan’s people that the title track does not mean what they thought it meant. There were SIX Top 10 singles from that collection and regular play on MTV, when that was something.


Naturally, Springsteen followed that with a FIVE-ALBUM collection, maybe a tad excessive, but with another charting single. But it’s interesting that after that, he became less the guy with the hits, and more the album-driven artist.

If you exclude live albums and compilations, all of Springsteen’s albums released between 2002 and early 2014 went to #1 on the Billboard charts. That exception was We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions which “only” went to #3. I thought that album a bit too reverent. But the Live Dublin albums, with many of the same musicians and songs, that came out the next year, was loads of fun.

I’ve only seen him perform once. I say “only” because he’s been in the area regularly. His three-hour shows are legendary.

Bruce performed his one-man Broadway show that was well received. He wrote an autobiography, Born to Run. He says, “Writing about yourself is a funny business. But in a project like this, the writer has made one promise, to show the reader his mind. In these pages, I’ve tried to do this.”

Now his new album, Western Stars, is going to be a movie. Bruce Springsteen IS The Boss.


born to run cover
Spirit in the Night, 1973
Rosalita, 1973
Born to Run, #23 in 1975
Jungleland, 1975

The Promised Land, 1978
Darkness on the Edge of Town, 1978
Hungry Heart, #5 in 1980
The River, 1980
Atlantic City, 1982

Pink Cadillac, 1984
Janey, Don’t You Lose Heart, 1985
We Are the World – USA for Africa, #1 for four weeks in 1985
Glory Days, #5 in 1985
My Hometown, #6 in 1986
War, #8 in 1986

Brilliant Disguise, #5 in 1987
57 Channels (And Nothin’ On), #68 in 1992
Better Days, B-side of Human Touch (#16), 1992
Streets of Philadelphia, #9 in 1994, and won an Oscar

My City of Ruins, 2002; WTC benefit
Old Dan Tucker, 2006
Radio Nowhere, #102 in 2007
Outlaw Pete, 2009

His YouTube channel
Coverville 1265: Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A., Covered, Track-By-Track

Bruce Springsteen turns 70 on September 23.

Music Throwback: We Are the World

I didn’t buy the single which was #1 for four weeks on the pop charts and two weeks on the soul charts.

This being the birthdays of both Ray Charles (b. 1930) and Bruce Springsteen (b. 1949), the song We Are the World came to mind. Both singers had significant solos on the track.

Let’s back up. Back in 1983-1985, there was a terrible famine in Ethiopia. In reaction to the television reports, Bob Geldof (Boomtown Rats) and Midge Ure (Ultravox, Thin Lizzy) wrote Do They Know It’s Christmas? in 1984. “It was first recorded in a single day on 25 November 1984 by Band Aid, a supergroup put together by Geldof and Ure and consisting mainly of the biggest British and Irish musical acts at the time.” It was re-recorded three times: in 1989, 2004, and 2014 for various charities.

American singer Harry Belafonte thought that if a bunch of Brits could do this, what could Americans do? Initially thinking of a benefit concert, Belafonte was convinced by “Ken Kragen, who managed an impressive roster of talent, that they could raise more money and make a bigger impact with an original song; Belafonte agreed…”

From Rolling Stone: “‘Check your egos at the door’ read the sign on the front door of A&M Studios in Los Angeles on the night of January 28th, 1985. Producer Quincy Jones had placed it there because dozens of the nation’s biggest singers were walking through that door, and he had exactly one night to cut a record that would save lives by raising money to help alleviate a famine in Ethiopia.

“The result, USA for Africa’s We Are the World, was released… on March 7th, 1985, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. By all accounts, some people, especially the rockers, didn’t particularly like the song. But it was Springsteen who refused to undermine the process and kept that faction in check.

Here are the lyrics, with indicators of the soloists.

The success of the Band Aid and USA for Africa singles led to benefit concerts such as Live Aid, also in 1985 and the various Farm Aid concerts.

I didn’t buy the single which was #1 for four weeks on the pop charts and two weeks on the soul charts (and #76 on the country charts) and sold four million copies in the US alone. I bought the album, which also sold well, but was lightly regarded.
Listen to:

Do They Know It’s Christmas (1984) here or here

We Are the World here or here (long version)

Queen at Live Aid here

We are the World (2010), for Haiti here

The making of We Are the World here