The coolest grandparents ever: Bruce and Patti Springsteen
BY DEBBY CARROLL
“We are old men,” Springsteen once told his bandmate Steven Van Zandt, “but we came up in a golden age doing what we did.”
Golden indeed. And for the 73-year-old rock superstar, the golden years just got quite a bit brighter. The “Boss,” as he’s been known since his early days playing bars along the Jersey Shore when it was his responsibility to get the money for the gig and pay the band members, got a new moniker last summer – grandfather.
Lily Harper Springsteen, born in July 2022, is the child of Springsteen’s son Samuel and his fiancée, Grace. She is the first grandchild for Springsteen and his wife, Patti Scialfa Springsteen.
Lily Harper Springsteen has made Patti and Bruce Springsteen proud grandparents.
Springsteen, always known for his adept and poetic way with words, has marveled aloud about how fast infants grow and develop from newborn to baby in just a few months.
“While it hasn’t been publicly announced what exactly Lily will call her grandfather, Bruce has said this about what she will call Patti, “The only thing I know is Patti is not going to be called ‘grandma.’”
“They come home, they’re like a little loaf of bread, except they don’t say as much.”
While it hasn’t been publicly announced what exactly Lily will call her grandfather, Bruce has said this about what she will call Patti, “The only thing I know is Patti is not going to be called ‘grandma.’”
And of his own grandparent name? “I’m going for anything except ‘The Boss.'”
Whatever grandparent names they choose, it’s certain the Springsteens will be among the coolest grandparents ever.
Bruce and Patti have a classic rock love story written in musical notes. They met at The Stone Pony bar in New Jersey in 1984. She auditioned for the E Street Band and became its only female backup singer. People noted the duo had great chemistry onstage, but Springsteen married actress Julianne Phillips the next year.
Proud parents, Patti and Bruce with newborn, Evan
Springsteens with their three children, L-R Samuel, Evan and Jessica
Jessica Springsteen wins Team Showjumping Silver for USA in Toyko 2021 Photo: Paul Grover
Patti and Bruce, with their youngest son, Samuel who is a firefighter in New Jersey.
The marriage didn’t last long and shortly after it ended, Bruce and Patti moved in together, eventually marrying in 1991. The couple has three children, Evan, Jessica, and Samuel. Evan is a musician and producer, Jessica is an Olympic equestrian, and Sam, Lily’s dad, is a firefighter.
Their marriage is one of the rare long-lasting rock-and-roll romances. Their chemistry was always visible, to the point where their kids were embarrassed by it when they were young. They asked their parents to stop being flirty onstage. Patti simply told them that someday they’d be happy when they looked back and saw just how much their parents truly loved each other.
Famous for the sheer length of those live concerts, Bruce admits the road hasn’t always been smooth. He’s written and spoken about the fraught relationship he had with his father growing up, as well as his battle with depression. He credits Patti with helping him through all of his many challenging years. As he wrote in his 2016 memoir, Born to Run, “By her intelligence and love she showed me that our family was a sign of strength, that we were formidable and could take on and enjoy much of the world.”
He explains how his art developed from that deep well of questioning his value and his talent.
“I believe behind every artist [he] has someone that told him that he wasn’t worth dirt, and someone that told him they were the second coming of baby Jesus, and they believed them both. That is the fuel that starts the fire.”
He said his father, “loved me but couldn’t stand me.” But, ultimately, after the birth of Bruce’s first child, they made peace. His father apologized for not having treated Bruce so well, and Bruce acknowledged that his father did the best he could.
Additionally, Bruce’s art came with a cost. He has suffered hearing loss and, like millions of people, benefits from the use of hearing aids. He also had to have throat surgery to remediate numbness he was experiencing, likely due to a compressed nerve in the neck.
Like many of us as we advance in years, Bruce has suffered his share of loss. Most notably, he lost a dear friend and bandmate in 2011 when saxophonist Clarence Clemons died following a stroke. At the time Bruce told Rolling Stone Magazine, the loss was like, “losing the rain.” More recently Bruce described his last visit with Clemons as he lay dying. He brought in his guitar and played, “Land of
Hopes and Dreams,” an ode to “passing over to the other side.”
Perhaps those challenges propelled Bruce to superstardom. His list of accolades is long. Here are just a few: 50 Grammy nominations, 20 wins, Induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President Barack Obama in 2016.
Along the way, Springsteen has tried to give back in good works in appreciation of his success. He has advocated vociferously for the rights of the disenfranchised. While touring with his “Born in the U.S.A.” album in 1984, Springsteen began setting up information about local charities and food banks at his gigs. He’s been involved with significant charity work ever since.
And the Boss certainly is still going strong. He kicks off a world tour in Tampa in February.
“Retirement?” he said, “I can’t imagine it.”
His most recent album is aptly titled “Only the Strong Survive.”
Ain’t that the truth?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Deborah Drezon Carroll is a mother of three daughters and grandmother to five of the best humans ever. She is a former teacher, author of two parenting books, and retired president of a niche publication syndicate. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Ned.
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The E Street Band was comprised of Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Van Zandt, Patti Scialfa, Max Weinberg, Garry Tallent, Roy Bittan, Nils Lofgren and in memoriam Clarence Clemons, Danny Federici
The Howard Stern Interview: Bruce Springsteen | Official Trailer | HBO
From candid conversations to in-studio performances, Bruce Springsteen and Howard Stern cover it all. The Howard Stern Interview: Bruce Springsteen is streaming on HBO Max.
Bruce Springsteen Inducts the E Street Band at the 2014 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
I saw rock n’ roll’s future…
BY CHARLES V. BAGLI
It was a typical bitter-cold Boston night on Jan. 8, 1973, when I settled into my seat at a table at Paul’s Mall, a tiny music club on Boylston Street in Boston.
I was there to see David Bromberg, a funny, masterful guitarist who’d released his first album a year earlier. But the opening act, fronted by a skinny, long-haired guy from New Jersey, knocked me out in a way that no performer or band ever has. It was the beginning of what would become a lifelong ride through college, adulthood, fatherhood, and now grandfatherhood.
“A performer of unquestioned integrity, who gave voice to working-class people, called out police shootings of African Americans, and provided succor after Sept. 11, Bruce has been a constant in my life.”
Although I’d grown up in New Jersey and spent a lot of time at the shore, I’d never heard of Bruce Springsteen. His first album—Greetings from Asbury Park NJ— had been released only three days earlier and this was his first time in Boston, where I was a sophomore at Boston University. His music got me moving in my seat; the lyrics spoke to me. I found myself joining in on the call-and-response in songs like “Spirit in the Night.” “All Night,” we shouted back. He was a poet, the bard of the boardwalk, whose music was infused with rock and soul. And that first album conjured up images that made me feel like I was walking down the boardwalk in Asbury Park, looking left and right, trying to take it all in.
Most of all, I loved the camaraderie between Bruce and the band members. I felt as if I might’ve known these guys forever and now they were inviting me to join them on a joyful, rocking adventure into the night.
I wouldn’t see David Bromberg again for 50 years, but I saw Bruce and the E Street band many, many times in the coming decades.
It took a lot to stand out in Boston, where there was a heady smorgasbord of live music. J Geils, Aerosmith and the James Montgomery Blues Band, and Roomful of Blues played in the dorms. Bonnie Raitt was the house band at a place in Cambridge. The then-unknown Jackson Browne opened for Joni Mitchell during her tour behind the “Blue” album. BB King played on the Boston Common and John Lee Hooker at the Unicorn Coffee House.
I saw Bruce again on March 12, at a music club called Oliver’s, across the street from the entrance to Fenway Park. I had to go by myself; my friends hadn’t heard of him. It was the kind of rollicking show I had already come to expect. At one point during a break, I found myself standing next to Bruce at the bar, trying to catch the bartender’s eye. To my everlasting regret, I didn’t say hello and introduce myself. The following October, I was back at Oliver’s watching what had become my favorite band.
By 1974, Bruce and E Street were no longer an unknown quantity in Boston. Their three-day stand across the Charles River at Charlie’s Place, near Harvard Square in Cambridge, sold out. It was the kind of place where you scuttled down a few steps from the street into a dungeon where the low ceilings had you constantly ducking. Bruce and the band shook the foundations.
“Jon Landau, then a music critic writing for the alternative weekly, The Real Paper, caught Springsteen a month later at Harvard Square Theater, prompting him to write an ecstatic review declaring “I saw rock and roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”
I saw Bruce inaugurate the opening of the Meadowlands Arena (next to Giants Stadium) in 1981 when I embarked on a career as a journalist, and I was back there in 1999 when Bruce reunited with the E Street Band and played for 15 nights. This time I was with my wife Ellie, who became a Bruce fan after what she described as the “religious experience” of seeing him on The River Tour, and our daughter Nikki, a high school senior. For Nikki, who’d been hearing Born to Run since she was born, this concert was baptism by fire – to be one with a crowd singing/shouting all the lyrics along with Bruce during a three-plus hour show.
Months after Katrina walloped New Orleans in 2005, Ellie and I saw Bruce and the Seeger Sessions band perform at Jazz Fest. From the stage, Bruce described how he and Patty fell in love with the city during a visit at the start of their romantic relationship. He and the band launched into, My City of Ruins, which literally brought tears to the eyes of many residents there who were still reeling from devastation, displacement, and loss. Many waved white handkerchiefs high in the air as the band played for another 40 minutes after closing time.
A performer of unquestioned integrity, who gave voice to working-class people, called out police shootings of African Americans and provided succor after Sept. 11, Bruce has been a constant in my life. Today, I have two grandsons, 6 and 4, who will be steeped in Springsteen music. And now Bruce has a grandchild. Like Bruce, I’m sure, I never imagined myself a grandfather, let alone, in my case, being 69 years old.
Author, Charles V. Bagli, with his wife Ellie at Springsteen concert
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Charles V. Bagli
Bagli covered the intersection of politics and real estate for The New York Times for 22 years, writing about Donald J. Trump, corruption in the construction industry, affordable housing, rebuilding Lower Manhattan after 9/11, and the killer Robert Durst. He has worked for The New York Observer, the Daily Record, the Tampa Tribune, and the Brooklyn Phoenix. He is the author of Other People’s Money; Inside the Housing Crisis and the Demise of the Greatest Real Estate Deal Ever Made. He lives in New Jersey with his wife Ellie. They have two daughters and two grandchildren. Bagli recently acquired a turntable and has begun listening to his vinyl albums again after a 30-year hiatus.
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