Bruce Springsteen 2022 ‘Howard Stern Show’ Career-Spanning Interview

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Bruce Springsteen on The Howard Stern Show, Oct. 31, 2022

Their decades-long careers have been on parallel courses but somehow Bruce Springsteen had never appeared on The Howard Stern Show. That changed on Oct. 31, 2022, when The Boss joined the radio host at his SiriusXM studio in New York. While Springsteen was ostensibly there to promote his upcoming album of soul covers, Only the Strong Survive, the self-proclaimed King of All Media couldn’t pass up the opportunity to keep his subject talking. It naturally became a mesmerizing, career-spanning interview that covered his signing with Columbia Records’ legendary talent scout, John Hammond, his acclaimed songwriting, the failure of his first marriage, the genesis of his long-running one-man show, Springsteen on Broadway, and his evolution as an artist. The acclaimed interview aired on HBO as a two-hour special on Nov. 27 and streamed on HBO Max.

Springsteen pointed to Stern’s own 2019 cover story with Rolling Stone as an inspiration for change. “It was a very telling, vulnerable interview,” he told the host. “You’ve gotta move onward, which is tough in my business. When you come up, your pals are with you. The biggest insult is, ‘You’ve changed!’ Yeah, but you didn’t change.”

“Why would you want to listen to the same guy over and over again?” Stern, 68, asked rhetorically. “Don’t you want to know that I’ve changed?”

“I had people come up to me when I did Tunnel of Love… in 1987!… and say, ‘I like it when you were singing about the cars and the girls.’ You go through your career and you pick people up and people go by the wayside. But that’s the nature of creativity.”

If he hadn’t evolved, Springsteen, who turned 73 on Sept. 23, 2022, told Stern, “I would’ve had no life. No kids. No home life. When I was young I thought that was romantic.”

Springsteen was just 22 when he auditioned for Hammond at Columbia Records. “I know where I’m going, I know who I’m going to go see, and I’m telling myself. ‘Okay, well, the worst that can happen, I come out exactly as I am right now — that’s not so bad. I make a living, I play music, I enjoy my life. I’ve got nothing to lose. The worst I’m going to be is exactly like I am.

“I almost convinced myself that was true until I sat down and looked across a little desk and there was John Hammond.”

Howard Stern during the interview

“I had a lot of experience… I was 22 but I’d been playing everywhere for eight or nine years. I played every fireman’s fair, every bowling alley, every pizza parlor — a thousand nights, played them all,” he said. “I didn’t know if I would ever make a record, if I would ever get signed, but I knew what I was about. I played for a lot of people, and I had heard a lot of applause before I walked in to see John Hammond.” He played an original song, “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City.” And as he tells in “Rosalita,” the record company gave him a big advance.

Stern asked Springsteen if he ever entertained the thought of retiring. “I can’t imagine it. Look at Johnny Cash. Look at Pete Seeger. I played with Pete Seeger at Obama’s inauguration… Pete was 91 or 92 and he sang ‘This Land is Your Land.’

“I look at those guys. I don’t know if I’ll be doing three-hour shows.”

At one point, the subject of composing on the piano came up. Springsteen said that most of the Born to Run album was written on his aunt’s piano. He then broke into an impromptu performance of “Thunder Road.”

“You finally got me to cry on the air,” said Stern. “It’s the first time ever. Wow.”

He explained how Springsteen on Broadway came about. “It happened by accident. I got invited to play at the White House and said I’ll just come by and read something from my book and play songs that are related to it. It ended up being about 90 minutes of what the Broadway show became [then] Barack Obama came up and said, ‘I know you just did this for us, but you should turn this into a show.'”

Of his career, Springsteen told his host, “I bumped into the luckiest job in the world because they paid me a fortune for something I would’ve done for free.”

Stern asked Springsteen what the best song was that he had ever written. And though he declined to single one track out, he acknowledged “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “Born in the U.S.A.,” “Born to Run,” “Thunder Road” and “The Rising,” before playing the latter on the program.

“You felt so powerless in the face of the events of the day,” he said referring to 9/11, the inspiration for the song.

More of the interview is available here.

Springsteen’s Only the Strong Survive was released on Nov. 11, 2022, on Columbia Records, the only label he’s ever recorded for.

Springsteen and the E Street Band resume their tour in 2024. Tickets are available here and on StubHub.

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