Above: Bruce Springsteen onstage at MusiCares Person Of The Year Honoring Bruce Springsteen at Los Angeles Convention Center (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)
A unique level of fanaticism swirls around all things Bruce Springsteen. There's a bond between performer and audience that few other experience or instill in such a wide swath or people over such an extended period of time.
Even the jaded members of the music industry, so often only affected by the music of their youth or their current projects, can easily summon praise for Springsteen, whether it's a recent performance or album, a distant memory or an overall love of the way the man works.
At Friday's MusiCares Person of the Year tribute to Springsteen, the industry's worship of Springsteen was on display everywhere, whether it was Big Machine's Scott Borchetta on the big screen signing along with "Born in the U.S.A." or Live Nation chief Michael Rapino tweeting praise for the guitar playing of Jim James and Tom Morello on "Ghost of Tom Joad" and Springsteen's speech. It was, as a beaming Grammy Museum executive director Bob Santelli said after the show ended at 1 a.m. "the best MusiCares ever." It was a night to be fan.
Singer Lana Del Rey, co-president at Sony/ATV Jody Gerson and chief executive of Sony/ATV Marty Bandier (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)
As usual, the seats closest to the stage were occupied by the industry heavyweights who make up Billboard's Power 100: Sony/ATV's Marty Bandier, Irving Azoff, attorney John Branca, Recording Academy CEO and president Neil Portnow, plus people such as Verve Music Group chairman David Foster, CBS' Leslie Moonves, actor Sean Penn, Katy Perry and past MusiCares persons of the year Elton John, Neil Young, Sting and Bonnie Raitt.
During the silent auction and cocktail hour, Billboard asked members of the industry to pinpoint the moment they became Springsteen fans or relate the importance of his music on their lives. Here's what people said.
Rob Light, CAA. " 'The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle" with 'Rosalita' and 'New York City Serenade' as a yin and yang. I spent eight hours as a 17 year old, waiting to get into the Bottom Line so I would be in the front row for his show. I still have the ticket ... framed in my office."
Chuck Plotkin, producer and mixer of numerous Springsteen recordings. "My nephew asked me to say something at his wedding and even though I'm not a singer I sang a song from 'Tunnel of Love,' 'Walk Like a Man.' It’s not just a song about man's bride, but also about his relationship with his father. It's unbelievable when you realize this guy (Springsteen) is able to do in three minutes what it takes a great dramatist to do in three hours. It’s a powerful, powerful gift."
John Burk, executive VP, A&R, Concord Records. "One of my best memories was a solo show he did at the Pantages. I went with Sam Moore and it was such a blast seeing him in that context, unplugged; such raw talent."
Judd Apatow and Bruce Springsteen at the Los Angeles Convention Center. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
Judd Apatow, filmmaker and soundtrack producer. " 'Rosalita' from the “No Nukes” movie. Back then, when did you see anyone like that perform on TV? That was such a rarity, but it was so great."
Martin Kirkup, partner, Direct Management. " 'The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle’ was released the month’ I moved from Britain to America, and along with 'Greetings From Asbury Park' it remains my first and strongest impression of that time. The poetic lyrics and Bruce's passionate vocals were amazing, and led me to find him playing at Charlie's Bar, a storefront place in Boston. Two sets -- I stayed for the late set too -- and became a lifelong fan."
David Hirshland, executive VP, client services, BMG/Chrysalis. "I went to Brown University from 1971 to 1975 and WBRU was a 50,000 watt station, the No. 1 college radio station in the country. We had an eight-track of 'Born to Run' and college radio broke that song. The last show before they went into the studio in the spring of 1975 was in Providence and it literally changed my life."
Don Was, president, Blue Note Records. " 'Let's Be Friends (Skin to Skin)' - it's one of the best things he's ever done. It should have been a hit record."
Elton John and longtime Springsteen manager Jon Landau and attorney Alan Grubman (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
Jay Cooper, lawyer. "The first time he played the Forum was beyond amazing. I've never seen such energy, such life, and it was a three-hour show. A life changing experience. And when we did 'We are the World,' he drove to studio and I think he was the only person who showed up just by himself.'"
Kevin Lyman, Warped Tour founder. "He's done it in his own way. As a punk in Los Angeles, I didn't listen to his music when I was younger, but later in life you realize he is just a bad-ass. He keeps doing things on his own terms. For me, it's not about a record or a show, it’s the whole vibe."
John Legend, artist. "I did 'Dancing in the Dark' on '(Late Night With Jimmy) Fallon.' I never knew if he liked it and when they asked me to do the show, I found out he did. Love that song."
Larry Thomas, CEO, Fender Guitars. " 'My Hometown.' I was a fan before that for a long time but I’m of an age that when you recognize that sort of gentrification, well, it really struck a nerve."
CBS president/CEO Les Moonves, holding Bruce Springsteen's guitar, and The Recording Academy president & CEO Neil Portnow (Photo by Michael Kovac/WireImage)
Alex Hodges, Nederlander Concerts. "Nobody works as hard as Bruce to give his fans some level of effort way beyond 100 percent."
Gary Calamar, music supervisor. "I was into the Who and prog-rock and there was this one kid in our neighborhood in Yonkers who kept saying you have to see this guy. The kid was the outcast. 'Born to Run' came out and the kid was right; Bruce became my all-time favorite. No more Yes or Nectar."
Tracey McKnight, head of music, Lionsgate Films. " 'Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.' I'm a Jersey girl and I was in high school, had a boyfriend and we played it all the time."
Bob Valentine, CFO, Concord Records. "I've seen Springsteen 25 times but when I was in college in 1992-93, he was playing Europe and a friend and I were backpacking on a break from college in London, We were both in Berlin. he was playing the Olympic Stadium for the first time since the Berlin Wall had come down. We had no money and scalped our way in, way in the back. We kept moving and got pretty far up before intermission and the guard left after intermission, We ran to the mosh pit and wound up right in front where my friend, who was wearing a New York Giants hat, kept waving at him saying 'I'm from Jersey.' Bruce finally says to the audience, 'there's kid from Jersey here in Germany.' To this day, my friend tells everyone that story."