After shooting the cover art for Bruce Springsteen’s second album, 1973’s The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, late photographer David Gahr trailed the New Jersey native and his E Street Band through 1986, in the run-up to the group’s seminal Born in the U.S.A. Tour. His work is collected in Bruce Springsteen: From Asbury Park, to Born to Run, to Born in the USA, a photo journal put together with Govinda Gallery founder-owner Chris Murray (out this week) that showcases a young upstart on the cusp of superstardom.
Murray, who is currently working on a book of George Harrison photos, notes that Gahr’s talents shine in the tome’s more intimate shots. “You could see there was a relationship here between David Gahr and Bruce,” he explains. “It wasn’t just a one-off. You could tell David brought to the table an interest in the persona of the person — it wasn’t just publicity photos.”
“You could see the unity,” says Murray of Springsteen and members of the E Street Band, pictured in 1973 in the New Jersey Shoretowns. (From left: Clarence Clemons, Springsteen, David Sancious, Vini Lopez, Danny Federici and Garry Tallent.) Springsteen, who signed to Columbia Records the year prior, had just released his defining debut, Greetings From Asbury Park, and was starting to bond with his bandmates. “In the beginning of the book, they line up like any rock’n’roll band would. By the end, they’re together as a single unit.”
“It’s a terrific photo of Bruce, being very personal and human,” says Murray, who pored over thousands of Gahr’s images, many unreleased, for the book. Gahr, who died at 85 in 2008, spent his life capturing candid shots of musicians from Bob Dylan to Johnny Cash. He took this picture of Springsteen lounging on a bed in 1977.
After keeping fans waiting three years for a new record, Springsteen hit the legendary Power Station studio in New York in 1980 to lay down his only double album to date, The River, which became his first to top the Billboard 200. “It looks like a family photo,” says Murray. From left: Jon Landau, Roy Bittan, Max Weinberg, Springsteen, Neil Dorfsman and Clemons.