Bruce Springsteen is proof that rockstars aren’t born; they’re forged through years of grit and determination. Only after grinding through endless barroom sets and weathering rejection after rejection from music executives did this blue-collar nobody become The Boss. Nobody could question his “Hungry Heart.”
As he cemented his place in the rock pantheon, however, Springsteen learned that stardom couldn’t solve all of his problems. It might have made them worse. Weighed down by creative doubts, familial tension, and romantic strife, the rocker only recently revealed just how close he came to falling apart.
“I’m glad that they’re paying me,” said Bruce Springsteen, when referring to his countless sold-out tours and platinum albums. But deep down he admitted he’d “do it for free.” After all, The Boss never even expected to escape his hometown.
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During his teenage years, Bruce’s Catholic school in Freehold, New Jersey, felt like a prison. He couldn’t stand all the rules imposed upon him, plus he didn’t really fit in with any of the other kids. Only one passion kept him going through this difficult time.
That was rock and roll. Following his early infatuation with Elvis, Bruce went all-in on music when he saw The Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. He bought his first guitar soon after and taught himself “Twist and Shout.”
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Sadly, Bruce’s dad didn’t approve of his musical interest — or pretty much anything else the boy did. Douglas Springsteen, mentally unstable and chronically unemployed, said fewer than one thousand words to his son over his lifetime, by Bruce’s own estimate.
But the burgeoning musician found a makeshift family in the rock clubs of Asbury park, where he began performing. “Every sort of rube, redneck, responsible citizen and hell-raiser the Jersey Shore had to offer, I rode with ’em,” Bruce recollected.
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There, Bruce assembled a dynamo team of musicians that became the E Street Band. On top of leading their musical direction, he handled payment from bookers and forbade drug use in the group, which led his collaborators to call him “The Boss.”
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1972 saw the release of Springsteen’s debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. He said hearing his own songs on the radio made his “number one rock ‘n’ roll dream come true.” Despite critical praise, that release only sold so many copies.
After another lukewarm album, Bruce poured everything he had into Born to Run. This time his talent couldn’t be denied. The album, which took over a year to produce, vaulted The Boss to stardom, though he didn’t know quite how to handle the influx of fame and fortune.
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He rewarded himself by purchasing his first car: a 1957 Chevrolet. Hard as he worked to earn the it, Bruce said he “felt as conspicuous as if I were driving a solid-gold Rolls-Royce.” But there was no escaping the spotlight now.
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Accustomed to playing to juke joints, Springsteen was now the biggest thing in rock. He made the covers of Time and Newsweek at the same time! Bruce and the E Street Band won over legions of fans with their intense work ethic and marathon concerts.
Time / Newsweek
The cracks in Springsteen’s rockstar life were clear, however. Some fans didn’t know what to make of his somber Nebraska, a largely acoustic album that explored themes of isolation, depression, and suicide.
Even his pop-centric work was full of cynicism. The title track of the smash Born in the U.S.A. album railed against American hypocrisy, but that didn’t stop politicians from endlessly using it as a campaign anthem. Everything Bruce touched turned to gold, whether he wanted to or not.
Springsteen even had the power to make stars out of other people. After spotting a gorgeous young fan during a concert, for instance, the rocker featured her in his Dancing in the Dark music video. That girl was Courteney Cox, later of Friends fame.
Bruce Springsteen / YouTube
It was no surprise that the ladies loved Bruce. He broke many hearts when he wed actress Julianne Phillips in 1985, but Springsteen was never totally present in that marriage. His devotion belonged to another, a woman who spent many nights just a few feet away from him.
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Years earlier, Bruce befriended singer Patti Scialfa and invited her to join the E Street Band. But he didn’t just admire her powerful voice; he loved her. With the 1990s looming, Bruce left Julianne in the dust and opened a new chapter with Patti.
Seeking a creative change, Bruce also abandoned the E Street Band. He wasn’t unsuccessful on his own — the rocker won an Oscar for “Streets of Philadelphia” after all — but critics largely agreed that Springsteen lost the spark that made him so special.
It took a phenomenal 1998 concert, one that Bruce only watched from the audience, to guide the rocker back to success. A triple bill of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Van Morrison hit him with the realization that he couldn’t do it alone.
In the new millennium, Springsteen got the band back together and penned some of his most celebrated work yet — particularly following the devastation of 9/11. He went on to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but even then Bruce wasn’t satisfied.
Bruce Springsteen / Instagram
His autobiography, aptly titled Born to Run, shocked many by disclosing the Boss’ ongoing fight with depression into his 60s. This illness, which Springsteen believed he inherited from his father, persisted even though he underwent decades of therapy and stayed off drugs his entire life.
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But Bruce knew what it took to be a survivor, thanks in no small part to the generation of rock icons that came before him. Springsteen was lucky enough to bond with legends like Roy Orbison, who wasn’t shy about his own personal demons.
While he may have been slick on the outside, Roy Orbison was actually wracked with insecurities. He almost didn’t record his first hit Ooby Dooby because he had such little faith in his own abilities. Thank god he did!
In fact, this lack of confidence may have been part of the reason behind Orbison’s signature dark sunglasses. Wearing them helped to alleviate some of his awful stage fright. And no, he was not blind.
The singer’s jet black hair was also a crucial part of his image. Turns out, though, it wasn’t even natural. He regularly dyed it darker to fit with his tortured persona.
Whatever he did worked, evidenced by the fact that some of his shows were so overrun with female fans trying to get a handful of him that they had to be shut down by the police.
One reason for this overwhelming popularity was Orbison’s astounding vocal range. He was able to sing at least an octave higher than the average high-pitched female singer could.
However his song-writing abilities were also impressive. Iconic hit “Oh, Pretty Woman” was written in forty minutes. He became inspired when, upon asking his wife Claudette if she needed cash, his co-writer Bill Dees responded, “A pretty woman never needs any money.”
Speaking of Claudette, the two had a loving yet tumultuous relationship. In 1964, the same year Oh Pretty Woman was released, they divorced over her repeated infidelities — only to remarry a mere ten months later.
After all, it would be hard to resist any man who was arguably more popular than the Beatles. After one of his shows, the legendary British band tried to start their set, only to be met with cries of “We want Roy!”
It makes sense that Orbison had such loyal fans, for he himself was incredibly devoted to his craft. After falling from a motorcycle and breaking his foot, he performed that same night — while wearing a cast, of course.
Then, the first of many awful tragedies struck. While riding on a motorcycle with his wife in Tennessee, the two were hit by a semi-truck. Claudette died in his arms at the young age of 25.
Horrifically, only two years after his wife’s passing, Orbison’s house caught fire, killing his two oldest sons: Roy Dewayne, 11, and Anthony, only 6. The rumored cause of the fire is even more heinous.
While the fire’s true culprit is contested, one source says that the boys’ grandfather had caught them playing with aerosol cans and — in order to show them how dangerous that was— touched his lighter to the spray, accidentally igniting the flames.
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After the life-shattering event, Orbison understandably decided to sell his house. Amazingly, another famous singer, Johnny Cash, was the person who ultimately bought it. Cash demolished the building and planted an orchard where it had been.
Orbison found love again in March of 1969, less than a year after his sons’ tragic deaths. He remarried, this time to a 17 year-old German girl named Barbara Jakobs. Roy himself was 32 at the time.
However the star was not done processing all the tragedy that had befallen him. He began to work on a secretive album in an attempt to cope with his grief. It remained unpublished until decades after his death.
But death was not finished chasing the singer. In 1973, while en route to Roy’s house for thanksgiving, his older brother perished in a car accident. Trapped under the vehicle, he was killed instantly.
Amidst all the heartache, Orbison was still able to revive his career in the 1980s. He joined a star-studded band, The Traveling Wilburys, along with none other than Tom Petty, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, and Jeff Lynne.
Eventually, the famed singer-songwriter sadly passed away from a heart attack at only 52 years old. To make matters worse, he’d been complaining of chest pains for months and, preoccupied with his busy career, never got around to seeing a doctor.
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But Orbison’s legacy lived on. In 2017, he was given the posthumous honor of being the first deceased singer to play in a hologram concert tour. The show was so realistic that his son weeped upon seeing it. The singer made another post-death appearance, too — sort of.
The music video for The Traveling Wilbury’s song “End of the Line” was filmed after the star’s passing. In tribute, his bandmates played with an empty rocking chair moving peacefully during Roy’s vocal segments. This was before Roy ever found out about the struggles one of his friends was facing.
But George Harrison’s struggle started in 1964, when “Beatlemania” was in full effect. “I Want To Hold Your Hand” topped the charts, and the band’s appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show set the record for the most-watched television program in American history. After, George made a decision.
The “Fab Four” wanted to capitalize on their newfound fame, so when United Artists Records approached them with a three-movie deal they jumped at the offer. Just like their records, A Hard Day’s Night went on to become a major commercial success.
But the Beatles’ first feature film didn’t just bring them fame and fortune — it also brought them love. While shooting scenes for the movie, one of the extras took a particular shine to George Harrison.
That extra was Pattie Boyd, a 20-year-old British model that regularly graced the covers of Vogue, Elle, and Vanity Fair. With her long hair, wide eyes, and signature mini-skirts, Boyd was the embodiment of the British “look” of the 1960s.
Harrison was equally taken by his newfound admirer, though at the time, Boyd was in a relationship with photographer Eric Swayne. Undeterred, Harrison asked “Will you marry me?” and at her refusal, he responded: “Well, if you won’t marry me, will you have dinner with me tonight?”
Less than a week later, Boyd broke things off with Swayne and took Harrison up on his offer. The couple stepped out for an evening at the Garrick Club in central London, marking the start of what would become a passionate, whirlwind romance.
Following a brief engagement, Harrison and Boyd wed on January 21, 1966. They held a small ceremony at a register office in Epsom, and bandmate Paul McCartney served as Harrison’s best man.
Harrison credited Boyd for significantly broadening his world view, which included his adoption of Indian lifestyle practices and Eastern mysticism. His relationship with Boyd also inspired his music, leading to Beatles hits like “I Need You,” “Love You To,” and “For You Blue.”
But perhaps the most iconic song spawned from Harrison and Boyd’s love was “Something” off 1969’s Abbey Road. Hailed as Harrison’s finest work, “Something” is widely considered to be one of the greatest Beatles songs of all time.
Yet the spark between Harrison and Boyd began to fizzle out in the early ’70s amidst spiritual differences and Harrison’s increasing dependency on alcohol and drugs. During this time, another musician stepped into Boyd’s life: Eric Clapton.
Boyd thought of Clapton as nothing more than a friend and collaborator of Harrison’s, though that all changed when she received an anonymous love letter signed “E.” Clapton later approached Boyd at a party to ask if she’d gotten his message.
Torn between the two men, Boyd was approached by Harrison who, sensing the situation, asked who she was going home with that night. Boyd agreed to stay with Harrison, driving Clapton into depression, heroin addiction, and a three-year hiatus from music.
In an effort to satisfy his unrequited feelings, Clapton wrote “Layla,” a play on The Story of Layla and Majnun in which a young man is driven mad by an unattainable love. Though the song failed to win Boyd, “Layla” is now considered a rock-n-roll masterpiece.
Fortunately for Clapton, however, Boyd’s marriage to Harrison ended in 1977 following the latter’s affair with bandmate Ringo Starr’s wife. The jaded guitarist tried to win Boyd’s affections just as he’d done before — only this time, he was successful.
Boyd married Clapton in 1979 and became yet another legendary musician’s muse. Both “Bell Bottom Blues” and “Wonderful Tonight” were inspired by Boyd, though the good times wouldn’t last.
Unable to cope with the stress of this new marriage Boyd began drinking heavily, and Clapton soon followed suit. Infidelity strained the relationship much as it had with Harrison, and by the late ’80s, the couple was on the outs.
Boyd divorced Clapton in 1989, citing his numerous affairs and “unreasonable behavior.” In Boyd’s mind, Clapton’s infatuation had only been a product of his competitive relationship with Harrison: “Eric just wanted what George had.”
In the wake of two failed marriages, Boyd decided the music industry was no place for her heart. She began dating property developer Rod Weston in 1991, and the couple wed 24 years later in 2015.
Despite the heartache, Boyd still continues to look back on her days as one of music’s most influential muses. Her candid photos of both the Beatles and Clapton have been featured in exhibitions across the globe, and in 2007, she released her autobiography, Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me.
Even today, Boyd is still asked which of her two great loves had the biggest influence on her life. “That is so difficult,” she once confessed, “but I would say George. He will always stay with me.”
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Though Harrison died of lung cancer in 2001, his legacy lives on through McCartney and Starr, who are still alive and kicking today — or, at least, that’s what some people believe. For the better part of five decades, one dark rumor about McCartney followed the band.
Starr may be the only person who knows the real truth. While he doesn’t like to address it in interviews, one question about a former bandmate still comes up again and again. Ringo admitted that it was a troubled time for the Fab Four.
See, ever since the mid-1960s, rock listeners have had questions about the whereabouts of Paul McCartney. Sure, he and Ringo appeared in public together as recently as 2018, but not everyone is convinced both men onstage were real Beatles.
How could that be? Since Beatlemania erupted on a worldwide scale in 1964, not one of John, Paul, George, or Ringo have been able to go anywhere without being recognized. They reached an unprecedented level of fame.
Everywhere they went, throngs of frenzied girls followed them. But after one 1969 radio broadcast, Beatles fans were screaming for a completely different reason. Many feared one of their heroes had met a grisly end.
One night, Detriot disc jockey Russ Gibb took a call from an anonymous source who claimed that Paul McCartney had secretly died and been replaced with a double. Russ entertained the crackpot for a while but never imagined listeners would believe him.
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In the ensuing weeks, tabloids and reporters began running the story as if it were fact. The “Paul Is Dead” rumors actually started years earlier – back when The Beatles stopped touring and changed their look — but now it had hit the mainstream.
Here’s the myth: Paul was speeding down a long-and-winding road one November night in 1966. Amid the icy conditions, he lost control of his car and veered into a pole, killing him instantly. Before the press picked up the tragedy, the band covered it up.
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Allegedly, manager Brian Epstein predicted that Paul’s demise would sink The Beatles and cause mass panic. So, in secret, he organized a search for a McCartney lookalike. They found their double in a man named William Shears Campbell.
At the same time, the three surviving musicians supposedly wrestled with extreme guilt. They could only bear it by hinting at Paul’s secret death and replacement. Before long, fans claimed to identify clues all over The Beatles’ catalog.
For example, conspiracy theorists thought the band’s alter-ego experiment in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was all a nod to the cover-up. The Beatles did name drop Billy Shears in “With A Little Help From My Friends,” after all.
Far-fetched as it sounded, a number of fans bought into the story. They pulled out photos of Paul from 1964 and 1967 and claimed there were enough facial differences to prove these were two different men! Naturally, they ignored the effects of aging and facial hair.
The Beatles added fuel to the fire by acknowledging the rumors in their work. For instance, a garbled voice appears at the end of the song “I’m So Tired.” When played backwards, it chants aloud, “Paul is a dead man. Miss him, miss him!”
The Beatles Bible
In addition, the cover of Abbey Road resembled a funeral procession. John led the way in a minister’s white outfit, Ringo followed in a black undertaker’s suit, Paul signified his death with a cigarette and no shoes, and George wore the blue-collar denim of a gravedigger.
With the Detroit radio broadcast, the “Paul is dead” conspiracy reached its peak. Though after The Beatles broke up in 1970, Paul disappeared from the public eye. Was there some truth to his downfall?
No, not so much. Following the band’s breakup, Paul and his wife Linda retreated to their Scotland farm. He did regular interviews to prove to everyone he was still alive and kicking, but a small group of naysayers just weren’t buying it.
Many hit singles and sold-out tours later, tinfoil hat wearers still insisted that this man simply wasn’t Paul McCartney. They alleged that the same impostor from 1966 was coasting off of The Beatles’ success, as he knew most people would never believe his secret.
Los Angeles Times
These days, Paul has mostly laughed off the hoax. Maybe the Fab Four shouldn’t have indulged the paranoids out there, but they were mostly just making fun of it. However, he admitted he did get into a crash in 1966.
Fortunately, this accident wasn’t nearly as horrific as the urban legend. The Beatle fell off his moped, resulting in him chipping his tooth. Paul actually grew a mustache shortly after to hide a small scar on his lip too!
As for Ringo, he never suspected his longtime friend of being replaced by a lookalike. That theory is simply too absurd and convoluted, he claims. Plus, The Beatles never could’ve found a quality double — there is only one Paul McCartney.
Dead or alive, Paul McCartney attained the rare status of a living legend; he’s been through it all, even developing a friendship with other music legends like Mick Jagger, with whom he’s exchanged a few stories.
For anyone who’s ever turned on a radio, Mick Jagger is the embodiment of the rock and roll frontman. Charismatic, provocative, and enduring, he cemented himself as a musical icon. But he came of age at a time when nobody bet on a British rock band to succeed.
Born to a middle-class family in 1943, Mick enjoyed a happy childhood outside London. He enjoyed singing from his earliest days, and he almost never stopped. Whether in the shower or the church choir, he belted it out — though his tastes were a bit scandalous.
As he came of age, Mick felt the closest affinity to American blues singers like Muddy Waters. This music didn’t fit in with the ideals of respectable English life, but Mick wanted nothing to do with that. Soon, he met friends who felt the same way.
In 1961, Mick bumped into an old classmate, Keith Richards, at the Dartford train station. They didn’t know each other well, but like magnets, they attracted when they saw what the other was holding. Mick had a bundle of rock records, while Keith clutched a guitar.
Keith and Mick joined forces and played around London. In 1962, they responded to a newspaper ad for rhythm and blues musicians. The final lineup brought in Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, and Bill Wyman and took its name from the Muddy Waters’ song, “Rollin’ Stone.”
With British rock suddenly exploding on the charts, the Stones got serious and hired a manager. The caustic Andrew Loog Oldham transformed them into the anti-Beatles, with a crude attitude and shabby appearance. Still, they took one big idea from the Fab Four.
Oldham understood that performers writing their own songs would define the future of pop music. Banking on the natural chemistry of Jagger and Richards, he locked them in a kitchen one night and wouldn’t let them out until they penned a single.
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Crazy as it sounds, the plan worked! The Stones had hits with covers before, but now their original singles were setting the charts on fire. In 1965, the scorching “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” reached Number One all over the world. Still, stardom wasn’t all perks.
Authorities didn’t take kindly to Mick’s rebellious attitude, so they sought to take him down. In an overpowered sting, police raided a Stones party and arrested Jagger for drug possession. The singer evaded jail time but saw legal fees drain his bank account.
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Jagger’s personal life wasn’t the only source of strife. The musicians had to fire Brian Jones, an original Rolling Stone and close friend, when his substance use made it impossible for him to play. Brian drowned in his swimming pool a month later.
Even in the face of tragedy, the Rolling Stones kept pushing the envelope and pumping out the hits. They seemed invincible, outlasting every rock group of their generation. Of course, they all paused when they heard about a death warrant for Mick Jagger.
See, in the twilight of 1969, the Stones organized the Altamont Free Concert, a festival they hoped would top Woodstock. The short-sighted band hired the Hells Angels, a notorious biker gang, for security. Tragically, the thugs got out of control and murdered a fan right in front of the stage.
Daily Mail / Beth Bagby
Jagger and his bandmates swiftly denounced the bloodthirsty bikers, who vowed to seek revenge. The most ruthless Angels plotted to assassinate the singer throughout the 1970s, but it didn’t phase Mick. In fact, he took his career in completely new directions.
Already a dynamo onstage, Mick tried his luck in front of the camera. His starring roles in films like Ned Kelly and Performance got decent reviews. Notably, the singer almost nabbed the lead role in The Rocky Horror Picture Show before Tim Curry won the part.
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Meanwhile, the Rolling Stones continued success into the ’80s belied a fracture within the group. Mick’s growing flamboyance and attempt at a solo career enraged Keith Richards. For a long time, the lifelong partners stopped speaking to each other.
However, Mick believed he didn’t need Keith’s friendship. For one thing, he had the attention of countless beautiful women. He was married to the stunning Bianca Perez-Mora Macias for years before entering a long relationship with model Jerry Hall.
All the while, Mick carried on a number of other dalliances, which resulted in quite a complicated family tree. The frontman has fathered eight children with five different women over the years. Most recently, he welcomed a baby boy at age 73!
In every facet of life, Mick dedicated himself to being the consummate bad boy, but he received an unexpected honor in 2003. Britain knighted him! The singer accepted with a smile, though of course his old pal Keith accused him of selling out.
Despite the ego-fuel squabbles, the fans and music kept the Rolling Stones out on the stage. Although they surpassed retirement age, they sought to reach new heights, like when they played a free concert to a newly opened Cuba in 2016.
The New York Times
But how long would Mick and company be able to keep it up? Fans feared the worst in 2019, when the Rolling Stones canceled a slew of concert dates so that their vocalist could undergo heart surgery.
However, Mick was back up and rehearsing in no time! He shared a video of himself practicing his dance moves to prove that he wouldn’t leave the limelight until he was bloody ready. Nobody else can quite move like Jagger.