“Under the Influence”: Bruce Springsteen’s main musical inspirations might just surprise you!

By on August 29, 2019

Bruce Springsteen‘s name doesn’t seem to ever fall out of the music headlines these days, whether it’s his Netflix doc Springsteen On Broadway recently being nominated for two Emmys, or his music being re-released on the soundtrack for the new Springsteen-related theatrical movie Blinded By The Light, or his nineteenth studio album, Western Stars — his first new studio record in five years — being released earlier this summer.

For this reason and more, we thought it might be a good time to take a look at Bruce Springsteen: Under the Influence, now streaming on Night Flight Plus.


Bruce Springsteen (Sony Music)

Here’s what it says on the back of this UK-produced DVD (a repackaging of the 2009 doc Bruce Springsteen’s Jukebox):

“Way before Bruce Springsteen was composing ad performing his own music, he developed his muse by listening, listening and listening again to the records that would live with him through his life and career. Records which, you can bet your life, he still listens to today. Cuts from Elvis, Chuck Berry and Johnny Cash were later joined by the Phil Spector sound and the Rolling Stones — which in turn made room for Van Morrison, and later still even New York’s art-punk terrorists Suicide.”


“There were also classic 45s which captured The Boss by the throat and have never let go — “Quarter to Three” by Gary ‘U.S.’ Bonds and “Devil In a Blue Dress” from Mitch Ryder spring to mind here. During his more recent career, Bruce developed a love for the captivating story songs of Woody Guthrie and the crystal folk of Pete Seeger.”

“These artists and others too have inspired and informed Springsteen’s compositions and performances in a manner that very few major artists — with the exception of Bob Dylan — would either admit to or have the confidence and state of grace to accept.”


Bruce Springsteen: Under the Influence looks at the foundations of his songwriting and the influences these artists have all had on Springsteen over his career, some of which might just surprise you!

The doc also looks at the political, literary and cultural influences that have effected “New Jersey’s favorite son,” making this academic appraisal of Springsteen’s artistic development one of the most detailed and fascinating films ever produced about his main musical inspirations.


Along with rare film footage of Springsteen and the aforementioned, alongside archive interviews with The Boss himself, you’ll see interviews with Vini Lopez and Gary Mallaber (both ex-E Street Band members), Gary “U.S.” Bonds, biographer Eric Alterman, Rolling Stone‘s Anthony DeCurtis, history professor & folk music expert Ronald D. Cohen, author & rock historian Johnny Rogan, and numerous other associates, experts and influences.


Read more about Bruce Springsteen’s influences below.


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Bruce Springsteen was born on September 23, 1949, in Freehold, New Jersey.

He would end up playing in a number of local bands within the Asbury Park music scene — the Castilles, Child, Earth, Steel Mill, Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom, and the Bruce Springsteen Band — which later provided him with musicians who formed his longtime backing band, the E Street Band.


Springsteen’s first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ, released in 1973, didn’t exactly set the world on fire, and neither did his second, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, released that same year (it features one of our favorites, though, “Kitty’s Back“).

His third album, Born to Run, changed everything, of course, landing him on the covers of Time and Newsweek in 1975.


His biggest commercial success, however, was still several years off, arriving in 1984 with the release of Born in the U.S.A., which produced seven Top Ten U.S. singles.

Springsteen closed out the Eighties by disbanding the E Street Band — saxophonist Clarence Clemons, guitarist Steven Van Zandt, keyboardist Roy Bittan, accordionist Danny Federici, bassist Garry Tallent and drummer Max Weinberg — and spending the next few years working with other musicians.


He would re-unite with the E Street Band again in 1999, embarking on a world tour just prior to releasing The Rising in 2002.

In the intervening years, he released several more studio albums. His latest and nineteenth studio album, Western Stars, his first new studio record in five years, came out in June 2019.


All of these recordings have led to Springsteen being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on the evening of March 15, 1999, which was pretty much a given, really, since he made it in on the first ballot during the first year of his eligibility.


During his induction speech, he acknowledged some of the other artists who’d paved the away:

“I stood on this stage, and I inducted Roy Orbison and Creedence Clearwater Revival and Bob Dylan, an artist whose music was a critical part of my own life. And tonight I hope that my music served my audience half as well. If I succeeded in doing that, it’s been with the help of many, many kindred spirits along the way.”


The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s website says this about The Boss:

“Bruce Springsteen became a voice of underdogs and the working-class, thanks to his unsparing observations about what life was really like for those with no access to a silver spoon. As a songwriter, however, he was also deeply romantic and sentimental. In long-time collaborators the E Street Band, he found kindred spirits who shared his commitment to barnstorming optimism.”


Watch Bruce Springsteen: Under the Influence and other music documentaries on Night Flight Plus.


About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.