Bruce Springsteen profile: Blue-collar Boss

IN NEW York, two weeks before the US presidential election, Barack Obama was introduced at a fund-raising rally which featured one of his most famous supporters, rock legend Bruce Springsteen. Senator Obama revealed to the crowd: "I just told Michelle that the reason I'm running for president is because I can't be Bruce Springsteen."

Given the election's outcome, it was a momentous personal accolade from the future president for Springsteen, known to all and sundry as The Boss of rock 'n' roll. Always a champion of left-leaning causes, Springsteen became one of the first major figures in the US entertainment industry to overtly back Obama for the presidency. It was a risk, for when he endorsed John Kerry's unsuccessful challenge to President George W Bush, in 2004, it led to an erosion of his fan base in the United States. His backing for Obama, however, is set to win him more fans than he lost over Kerry.

Obama genuinely is a long-term fan of Springsteen, and repaid his rock hero for his endorsement. At the presidential inauguration on Tuesday, the Boss sat in a place of honour on the platform near Muhammad Ali, Stevie Wonder, Leonardo DiCaprio, Beyonce Knowles and the basketball celebrity, Magic Johnson.

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Springsteen's last album was called Magic, and was reckoned by critics and fans to be his best work for 20 years, a return to his rock roots. Its release heralded a worldwide concert tour on which Springsteen was once again accompanied by his long-term collaborators, the E Street Band. They played to an estimated two million people on the tour and grossed $232m, the concerts showing little slowdown from the high-energy, enervating performances which first made the Boss's name.

The audiences at the mostly stadium concerts were a mixed bag. Grey-haired, beer-bellied men in their 50s whooped and hollered on the pitch alongside teenage girls who had only just encountered the music of the man who has had more than 30 years at the top.

Magic reminded people that Springsteen is a true original, a working-class poet whose work weaves tales of blue-collar life and love, and aggrandises ordinary existence to almost mythical status. As a singer-songwriter, he acknowledges Bob Dylan and especially Roy Orbison as his influences, while in his quieter moods he emulates folk musician Woody Guthrie. At last weekend's pre-inauguration concert at the Lincoln Memorial, Springsteen sang Guthrie's anthem 'This Land Is Your Land', which has long been in his concert repertoire.

It is a busy time for the Boss as he approaches his 60th birthday in September. Not only has his support for Obama proved spectacularly correct, but Springsteen has just won a Golden Globe for his theme for the film The Wrestler, though he won't be adding to his Oscar for the song of the 1993 film Philadelphia as Springsteen's 'Wrestler' failed to win a nomination. He is also up for two Grammy awards next month for Magic, to add to the 18 he has already acquired.

His new album, his 24th, entitled Working On A Dream, is due out this week and next weekend Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band will perform live during the Super Bowl interval. The television audience in the US alone will be 150 million, with an estimated 400 million worldwide watching live or recorded broadcasts. The President and the Super Bowl – it doesn't get much bigger than that.

Born in New Jersey, Springsteen was the archetypal high-school dropout who could play a guitar. Avoiding the draft for Vietnam on medical grounds, he formed a band with some friends called The Castiles which went through several transformations until emerging as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in 1972. Its members included giant black saxophonist Clarence Clemons and 'Miami' Steve Van Zandt.

It was at this time that the Boss earned his nickname, as he wrote the songs, collected the money and paid the musicians at the concerts they performed. His early fame was largely confined to the American east coast, where music fans were exhilarated by Springsteen's energetic concert performances which could last up to four hours.

In May 1974, the respected critic Jon Landau wrote: "I saw rock and roll's future and its name is Bruce Springsteen." The following year's release of his third album, Born To Run, catapulted the Boss into the front rank of rock music. Just as his career began to take off, Springsteen got involved in a long dispute with former manager Mike Appel. It ended with Landau becoming the manager and producer of Springsteen and the E Street Band.

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After the success of his double album The River and a year-long concert tour, in 1984 Springsteen brought out the album which earned him superstar status, Born In The USA, which featured seven top 10 hits. Ronald Reagan, no less, hijacked the eponymous title tack as a jingoistic anthem, but the president had not read the words – the song is directed at America's mistreatment of Vietnam veterans. On the tour to promote the album, Springsteen played sell-out stadium concerts across Britain and made a sizeable donation to the fund set up for the wives and children of striking miners.

It was one of the many times that Springsteen showed his progressive politics. He is well aware of the irony of a multi-millionaire dressed in blue jeans singing songs of working-class angst, but his support for anti-nuclear causes and Amnesty International, among others, has been heartfelt.

His personal life has had its troubled moments. He famously fell out with his father, Doug, for many years, and wrote the intensely moving song 'Independence Day' about it, but the two were reconciled before the latter's death in 1998. Springsteen married Californian actress Julianne Phillips, who was 10 years his junior, in 1985, but the marriage fell apart while all the time, the woman who would become Springsteen's true love was behind him – E Street Band backing singer, Patti Scialfa. The couple married in 1991 and have three teenage children.

Springsteen was creatively quiet in the 1990s as he raised his youngsters, but a year-long reunion tour with the E Street Band revived him, and after 9/11 the Boss was one of the first musicians to organise benefit gigs for victims of the attacks, commemorated in his elegiac song 'The Rising'. The death, last April, of his friend and keyboard player Danny Federici, and the age of some of the band members – Clemons is 67 – led to suggestions that touring would cease, but fans were relieved to learn the band will tour again in the summer. As ever with Springsteen, there's always time for one more encore.

You've been Googled!

• Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's first concerts in Scotland were at The Playhouse Edinburgh on May 16 and 17, 1981. A ticket for the balcony cost 6.

• The name Springsteen is Dutch in origin. His bus driver father Doug had Dutch and Irish ancestry, and was known as Dutch. His mother Adele was of Italian parentage.

• In the 1970s, Springsteen the songwriter provided hits for the likes of Patti Smith and Manfred Mann.

• In 1984, Springsteen became a star with his massive hit 'Dancing In The Dark'. In the video of the song, he dances with a pretty, fresh-faced teenager, Courtney Cox, left, later a star of Friends.

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• Springsteen's son Evan loves football, or soccer as he calls it. When he played Old Trafford last summer, Springsteen told the audience his main task was to get a Manchester United jersey for his son. The Boss couldn't understand why some people booed this announcement.