How Well Do You Know Bruce Springsteen?


By: William J. Wright

7 Min Quiz

Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

About This Quiz

There are singer/songwriters; there are rock stars; and then there's Bruce Springsteen. With a career spanning nearly five decades, the man they call "The Boss" has made a career of giving voice to the trials and triumphs of working class men and women. Blending the lyricism of Bob Dylan with the charisma and stage presence of Elvis, Springsteen is an unparalleled icon of American music.

Like many musicians of his generation, it was the Beatles and their historic 1964 performance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" that would give direction to a 15-year-old Springsteen, armed with a cheap guitar and a dream. There was no turning back for the man who would be the Boss. Released in 1973, his first album, "Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J." proved a critical success but failed to catch fire with music fans. However, with his third album, the now classic "Born to Run," the New Jersey rocker was at last on his way to the rare balance of critical and commercial success that has been the hallmark of his career. With 20 Grammys, an Academy Award and the undying adoration of his fans and peers, Bruce Springsteen continues to make the music of the American dream with heart, soul and authenticity.

Now, we know Bruce has some of the most loyal fans in the world, so we've concocted a quiz just for the most fanatical devotees of the Boss. Are you on fire for New Jersey's favorite son? Here's the challenge: how well do you know Bruce Springsteen?

This song from the "Born to Run" album tells the story of the formation of the E Street Band. Can you name this rocking tune?

With clear references to "The Big Man" and a protagonist named "Bad Scooter," "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" is a rousing uptempo number that recounts the origin of the E Street Band. Although he wrote the song and has performed it for decades, Springsteen claims to have no idea what the title means.


Before she was famous, this actress was Bruce Springsteen's dancing partner in the music video for his 1984 hit "Dancing in the Dark." Can you name her?

The video features a pre-"Friends" Courteney Cox as Bruce's front row fan and dancing partner. It also had an iconic director. In a move out of character for the man behind the suspense classics "Carrie" and "Dressed to Kill," Brian De Palma directed the infectiously upbeat video for "Dancing in the Dark."


This question should be easy for diehard Bruce fans. How did Bruce Springsteen earn the nickname "The Boss"?

In the early days of what would become the world famous E Street Band, Springsteen was charged with the task of collecting the band's pay and distributing it among the musicians. Although the notoriously anti-authoritarian Springsteen initially disliked the name, he has come to embrace it.


Can you name the showstopping tune Bruce frequently used to introduce the members of the E Street Band?

A staple of Bruce's live concerts for a decade, "Rosalita" holds a special place in the hearts of fans. Bruce used the song as a show-closing jam to introduce the members of the E Street Band. The song was dropped in 1984 to shake things up but still shows up sporadically.


Springsteen famously had a disagreement with which American president over the use of his hit "Born in the U.S.A."?

Bruce Springsteen's 1984 hit "Born in the U.S.A." is among the most misunderstood songs in rock history. With its anthemic chorus, it's easy to dismiss it as a patriotic paean to all that is red, white and blue. Many people, including President Ronald Reagan, have overlooked its biting anti-war message.


Can you name the film for which Bruce Springsteen won an Academy Award for Best Original Song?

In 1994, Bruce Springsteen added an Oscar to his crowded awards shelf for the song "Streets of Philadelphia." Appearing on the soundtrack for the film "Philadelphia," "Streets of Philadelphia" earned Springsteen a Grammy for Song of the Year. Tom Hanks scored a Best Actor Oscar for his starring role in the film.


This bleak song from the 1982 album "Nebraska" tells the story of an unemployed auto worker who kills a night clerk. Can you name it?

The fourth song on Bruce Springsteen's 1982 album "Nebraska," "Johnny 99," tells the story of an unemployed auto worker whose circumstances drive him to kill a night clerk while committing a robbery. The song's protagonist is sentenced to 99 years in prison but pleads to be executed instead.


The Boss had a hit with "My Hometown" from the "Born in the U.S.A." album in 1984. Where did Bruce Springsteen grow up?

Bruce Springsteen grew up in the borough of Freehold, located in Monmouth County, New Jersey. Springsteen has paid homage to his hometown with the humorous "In Freehold" and the bittersweet "My Hometown."


What does a young Bruce find under the Christmas tree in the autobiographical song "The Wish"?

In his touching autobiographical song, "The Wish," a young Bruce Springsteen finds a "brand new Japanese guitar" under the Christmas tree. The guitar in question was a $60 single pickup Kent, which was quite an expense for his mother.


Can you name the English band that had a No. 1 single with a Springsteen song?

Although the Boss has never made it to No. 1 as a solo performer, Manfred Mann's Earth Band took a cover version of Springsteen's "Blinded by the Light" to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1977. The song originally appeared on Springsteen's 1973 debut, "Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J."


The 1982 album "Nebraska" features a song with this lyric: "Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty, and meet me tonight in _____ _____." What words are missing?

"Atlantic City," from the 1982 album "Nebraska," tells the story of a man facing a moral dilemma: to remain in poverty or take a job with the mob. A song of desperation and doubt, the lyrics draw parallels between the song's protagonist and Atlantic City's hopes for renewed prosperity.


Which of these acts DIDN'T have a hit with a song written by Bruce Springsteen?

Although the late Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin will forever be associated with pink Cadillacs, thanks to her 1985 hit "Freeway of Love," it was Natalie Cole who covered Bruce's "Pink Cadillac" in 1987. Nevertheless, Franklin's song features Springsteen's E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons.


Can you name the song in which Bruce sings, "Well everybody's got a secret, son, something that they just can't face"?

"Darkness on the Edge of Town," the bleak and incisive title track from Bruce Springsteen's fourth album, cuts right to the heart of a lost American dream. Despite the seeming hopelessness of the lyrics, its down-on-his-luck narrator, a street racer, refuses to let life crush his will.


What was the name of the first band Bruce Springsteen recorded with?

The first band Bruce Springsteen ever recorded with was called the Castiles. In 1966, the band recorded two songs, "Baby I" and "That's What You Get," marking Bruce's first studio session. Very few copies of this 45 were pressed, but the recordings are widely available as bootlegs.


What is Bruce Springsteen's connection to the 1988 horror film "Sleepaway Camp II"?

Bruce's sister Pamela stars as camp killer Angela in the 1988 sequel to the cult horror favorite "Sleepaway Camp." Enjoying a brief career as an actress throughout the '80s before becoming a photographer, Pamela Springsteen would return for one more outing as Angela in 1989's "Sleepaway Camp III."


Can you name the 1987 hit from "Tunnel of Love" that contains the lyrics, "God have mercy on the man who doubts what he's sure of"?

"Brilliant Disguise" was the first single from the 1987 album "Tunnel of Love." Like much of the album, "Brilliant Disguise" finds Springsteen exploring the complicated dynamics of relationships. Hinting at infidelity, self-doubt and suspicion, the song chronicles a marriage in decay.


How many No. 1 singles has Bruce Springsteen had during his career so far, as of 2019?

As surprising as it may seem, Bruce Springsteen has never had a No. 1 single in the United States. The Boss' highest charting single in America was 1984's "Dancing in the Dark," which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard charts.


Can you complete this lyric from Springsteen's epic hit "Born to Run": "At night we ride through the mansions of glory in _____ machines"?

After two commercially disappointing albums, "Born to Run" was Springsteen's all-or-nothing gambit to hit it big or go down swinging. With the lyrics, "At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines," his desperation is as palpable as his impending triumph.


Which of Bruce Springsteen's albums holds the distinction of being the first CD pressed in the United States?

The first CD pressed in the United States was, appropriately enough, Bruce Springsteen's classic "Born in the U.S.A." Prior to the opening of the CBS Records CD production plant in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1984, the relatively new format was made only in Japan and Germany.


You might call him the Boss, but what's Bruce Springsteen's full name?

The Boss was born Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen to parents Douglas Frederick "Dutch" Springsteen, a bus driver, and Adele Ann Springsteen, a legal secretary. He has two sisters: Virginia and Pamela.


How did Bruce and the E Street Band react to a 1978 Sunset Strip billboard for "Darkness on the Edge of Town"?

According to an interview with Rolling Stone, Bruce considered the billboard "the ugliest thing I've ever seen in my life." Under cover of darkness, Bruce and the band scaled the sign, armed with 20 cans of black spray paint, defacing the ad with "Prove it All Night" and "E Street."


What famous musician has Bruce Springsteen impersonated on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon"?

Bruce Springsteen has made many appearances on comedian Jimmy Fallon's "Late Night," occasionally appearing as younger incarnations of himself. A "Born to Run"-era Bruce has performed Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair" with Fallon's spot-on Neil Young. The pair has also appeared as tandem 1980s Bruces.


Bruce originally wrote this song for the Ramones, but his manager insisted that he record it himself. Can you name this 1980 single?

Bruce Springsteen wrote "Hungry Heart" for the Ramones after meeting frontman Joey Ramone in Asbury Park. Hoping to break the pattern of other artists like Manfred Mann and Patti Smith having hits with Bruce's material, manager Jon Landau insisted Springsteen record it himself.


Why was Bruce Springsteen turned down for military service in Vietnam?

Bruce Springsteen may have narrowly avoided the fate of his "Born in the U.S.A." protagonist because of a concussion he suffered in a motorcycle accident. Although he was drafted, he failed the physical and was certified unfit for military service. The Army's loss was music's gain.


In the song "Glory Days," the Boss reminisces with a high school friend. What sport did the friend play?

In the first verse of "Glory Days," Bruce sings, "I had a friend was a big baseball player back in high school." Although "Glory Days" is wistful and nostalgic, Bruce, a notorious outsider in his youth, often states he "hated high school" before he performs the song in concert.


This song, inspired by a novel by John Steinbeck, is the title track from Bruce Springsteen's eleventh studio album. Can you name it?

Inspired by John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1939 novel, "The Grapes of Wrath," "The Ghost of Tom Joad" hearkens back to Woody Guthrie's 1930s protest songs. A haunting and pointed criticism of an unattainable American Dream, this song is among Bruce's most socially aware.


What was the first song Bruce learned to play on the guitar?

The Beatles changed Bruce Springsteen's life and put him on the path to attaining his own musical dreams. Naturally, the first song he learned on the guitar was a Beatles tune: "Twist and Shout." Bruce still plays the song in encores and has played it with former Beatle Paul McCartney himself.


In 2006, Springsteen released an album comprised of songs written by what legendary folk artist?

Bruce Springsteen's "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions" is a celebration of the life and music of the legendary folk singer and social activist Pete Seeger. Comprised solely of cover versions of Seeger's songs, the album won a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album in 2007.


Which Bruce Springsteen song did NASA use as a wake-up call for the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1999?

NASA ground control has made a tradition of waking astronauts with music. In some cases, ground control chooses a song related to the day's mission. In 1999, the crew of Discovery awoke to the sounds of "Rendezvous" on the day they were scheduled to make contact with the Hubble Space Telescope.


What is the name of the narrator's girlfriend in the 1980 song "The River"?

"The River" is the title track of Bruce Springsteen's fifth studio album. Filled with despair and longing, "The River" is sung from the perspective of a young man who weds his girlfriend Mary after an unplanned pregnancy. Bruce based the song in part on the life of his sister Ginny.


Can you name the career-spanning album Bruce Springsteen released as a companion piece to his 2016 autobiography?

Released as a companion piece to his acclaimed 2016 autobiography "Born to Run," "Chapter and Verse" is a retrospective compilation of songs chosen by Springsteen himself. Of the 18 tracks, five are previously unreleased, including early demos and songs from the first band he recorded with, the Castiles.


Which Bruce Springsteen song is based on the true story of spree killers Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate?

Bruce Springsteen set the tone for his darkest album with the title track from 1982's "Nebraska." Sung from the perspective of spree killer Charles Starkweather, the moody, acoustic number is made all the more disturbing by Springsteen's matter-of-fact delivery of some of his most graphic lyrics.


What behind-the-scenes role did Bruce take on in the production of the concert film "Western Stars"?

Coinciding with the release of his 19th studio album of the same name, the concert film "Western Stars" marks Bruce Springsteen's debut as a director. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2019 and features tracks from the album performed live.


Do you remember what year Bruce Springsteen was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

Bruce Springsteen was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. U2's Bono gave a memorable introduction at the ceremony, proclaiming that "Bruce Springsteen owns America's heart." The remaining E Street Band members were inducted in 2014.


New Jersey-born Springsteen has always worn his love of his home state on his sleeve. Can you name the town that was the Boss' birthplace?

Bruce Springsteen was born on September 23, 1949, in Long Branch, New Jersey. Springsteen, however, is not the only music star to claim the seaside town as a birthplace. Country star Clint Black was also born in Long Branch and lived in New Jersey for a year before his family moved to Texas.


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