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Bruce Springsteen 15 essential tracks
Bruce Springsteen

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Bruce Springsteen Essentials: 15 Tracks That Show Why The Boss Is A Poetic Rock Icon

The reach of Bruce Springsteen's cosmovision is universal. Ahead of the launch of Bruce Springsteen Live! at the GRAMMY Museum, revisit 15 hits and beloved classics by The Boss.

GRAMMYs/Sep 23, 2022 - 01:23 pm

More often than not, the songs of Bruce Springsteen detail with stark, poetic realism the struggles, disappointments and triumphs of the anonymous heroes that make up the very fabric of American society. But the reach of his cosmovision is universal.

On the strength of his epic melodies and superb musicianship, Springsteen became a global rock'n'roll icon — an iconic status he has maintained through a consistent body of work. These 15 tracks highlight the creative brilliance and emotional honesty of an artist who was born to be called The Boss.  

The music and career of the 20-time GRAMMY winner will be the subject of a new exhibit at the GRAMMY Museum in downtown Los Angeles. Bruce Springsteen Live! launches on Sat. Oct. 15 and runs through April 2, 2023.

Born To Run (1975)

After releasing two critically acclaimed but commercially underwhelming albums, Springsteen was given a healthy budget by Columbia Records as a last chance for mainstream success. He reacted by investing his notorious perfectionism into a wall-of-sound approach on Born To Run, his first international hit. The title track is the one song that Springsteen has performed the most times onstage — a classic rock narrative about speed, freedom and broken heroes.

Badlands (1978)

Informed by the energy of the punk revolution that swirled around him, "Badlands" was the ferocious opening track of Darkness On The Edge Of Town — released three years after Born To Run due to a legal dispute with his former manager. Springsteen favored a more immediate approach during the prolific sessions for this album. Striving for an aggressive sound, he recorded live in the studio with the E Street Band in order to avoid excessive overdubbing.

Hungry Heart (1980)

The River was going to be a single album until Springsteen changed his mind and continued recording a sprawling double LP that switches from party pop-rock to somber storytelling. The Boss wrote "Hungry Heart" with the Ramones in mind, but decided to keep the infectious radio hit for himself. Touches of piano and Clarence Clemons’ baritone sax anchor Springsteen's voice, which was slightly sped-up in the studio to create a Beach Boys-like effect.

The River (1980)

Springsteen composed one of his most memorable songs in a New York hotel room, right after singing Hank Williams’ "My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It." Written in honor of his sister Ginny and his brother-in-law — who was unemployed due to the recession of the late ‘70s — it features one of Springsteen’s most vulnerable performances, accompanied by a plaintive harmonica solo. When he recorded it at The Power Station, mixing engineer Toby Scott started sobbing at the console.

Nebraska (1982)

After completing an extensive international tour in 1981, Springsteen rented a ranch by the shore of a lake in his native New Jersey. Inspired by its solitude and the writings of Flannery O’Connor, he began working on songs about gamblers, criminals and other desperate characters in a portable 4-track recorder. Sparse and introspective, the new songs were released in their original shape, without the E Street Band. Inspired by serial killer Charles Starkweather, the opening title track sets the mood with the singer’s gravelly voice, acoustic guitar and harmonica.

Born in the U.S.A. (1984)

With its bold cover, crisp '80s sound and brave examination of the American dream, Born in the U.S.A. marked Springsteen’s commercial peak as a rollicking arena-rock star. The timing was perfect, as the musically dismal decade was in dire need of a song prophet with lyrical depth. Ironically, the meaning of the title track was misunderstood by many as a paean to America’s glory. Maybe because the lyrics of reckoning and disenchantment were coupled with a call-to-arms drum beat and his rousing vocal performance.

Dancing in the Dark (1984)

Written overnight after producer Jon Landau asked him for a surefire hit, "Dancing in the Dark" touches on Springsteen’s feelings of alienation and fatigue, as well as a desire to escape. A delicate melodic gem disguised as pop-rock concert favorite, it breathes to the sound of a synth line — hopeful, ever nostalgic — played by Roy Bittan on a DX7 Yamaha. Clemons’ solo at the end enhances the bittersweet mystique.

Brilliant Disguise (1987)

Springsteen weathered the excesses of the ‘80s admirably well. The Tunnel of Love sessions found him in a contemplative mood, performing most instruments himself with the assistance of the occasional E Street Band member. He considers "Brilliant Disguise" to be the existential centerpiece of the album, a meditation on masks and identity seeped in romantic defeat.

Streets of Philadelphia (1994)

Mournful and serene, yet backed by a bouncy drum machine loop, "Streets of Philadelphia" was written at director Jonathan Demme’s request for inclusion in Philadelphia, one of the first mainstream films to deal openly with the AIDS crisis. The singer recorded a fuller version with jazz icon Ornette Coleman on sax, but then reverted to his original, low-key demo. A masterful decision, as this solo version is one of his most vulnerable recordings.

The Rising (2002)

A soaring gospel-rock anthem, "The Rising" was written when Springsteen was almost done recording the album of the same name as a reaction to the September 11 tragedy. He felt the need to write an extra tune giving voice to one of the many heroes who died trying to rescue the victims of the attack. Filled with religious imagery, the song found him reunited with the E Street Band after 18 years.

Radio Nowhere (2007)

In 2006, Springsteen released a folk album exploring the songbook of activist and singer Pete Seeger. The following year, Magic marked an explosive return to both rock’n’roll and the E Street Band. Produced by veteran alternative-rock helmer Brendan O’Brien, opening cut "Radio Nowhere" leaps out of the speakers with its distorted guitars — a sharp contrast to the lyrics, depicting a post-apocalyptic world where all communications are down.

Working on a Dream (2009)

While putting the finishing touches on Magic in Atlanta, Springsteen started writing songs for a more hopeful album. Reminiscent of Roy Orbison, title track "Working on a Dream" talks about the concerted effort that we must invest in our daily lives in order to create a better tomorrow. He performed it live in 2008 at a rally held by Barack Obama, two days before the presidential election.

We Take Care Of Our Own (2012)

Wrecking Ball, Springsteen’s 17th studio outing, was not only a critical darling — Rolling Stone named it album of the year and the record was nominated for three GRAMMY Awards — but it also climbed to the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. A song about the death of illusions, "We Take Care Of Our Own" frames his soulful vocals on a wide canvas that includes glockenspiel, subtle piano, a string arrangement and female choruses.

Hello Sunshine (2019)

It is a testament to Springsteen’s stature as one of the most talented songwriters of his generation that he continues releasing gorgeous new songs. This timeless 2019 gem is one of them. Included in the bucolic Western Stars album, it recreates the effortless sophistication of ‘60s American pop, as Bruce’s voice floats in the ethereal arrangement of strings and a melancholy pedal steel guitar.

Ghosts (2020)

Having turned 70 in 2019, it was only natural that The Boss would gravitate to themes of aging and loss on Letter To You, his 20th album. Focusing on a more natural, organic sound, its 12 tracks were recorded live in the studio, with everyone playing together at the same time. An uplifting rock tune that sounds like an outtake from his early days, "Ghosts" talks about the joys of being in a band — and the pain of losing old friends to the inevitable ravages of time.

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La Santa Cecilia poses for a photo together in front of a step and repeat at the GRAMMY Museum
La Santa Cecilia

Photo: Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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La Santa Cecilia Celebrates Their 'Alma Bohemia' With Documentary Screening & Performance At The GRAMMY Museum

In a documentary screening detailing the making of their album 'Cuatro Copas' followed by a discussion and live performance at the GRAMMY Museum, La Santa Cecilia recounts years of making music and friendship.

GRAMMYs/Apr 9, 2024 - 06:32 pm

"Oh no, I’m going to start crying again," says La Santa Cecilia singer La Marisoul during a touching scene in Alma Bohemia, the documentary directed by Carlos Pérez honoring the Los Angeles band’s 15 year anniversary. 

As it turns out, there are many reasons to be emotional about this film — and the very existence of La Santa Cecilia in the contemporary Latin music landscape. Fittingly, Alma Bohemia was received enthusiastically by the capacity audience during an exclusive screening on April 3 at the GRAMMY Museum’s Clive Davis Theater in Los Angeles. 

Formed by La Marisoul (real name is Marisol Hernández), bassist Alex Bendaña, accordionist and requinto player José "Pepe" Carlos and percussionist Miguel "Oso" Ramírez, La Santa Cecilia was for years one of the best kept secrets in the Los Angeles music scene.  As close friends and musicians, they won over audiences with an organic, down-to-earth sound and a lovely songbook that draws from traditional formats such as bolero, ranchera and nueva canción.

Alma Bohemia follows the making of La Santa’s 2023 album, Cuatro Copas Bohemia en la Finca Altozano. A celebration of the band’s longevity, the session also functions as a subtle, yet powerful musical experiment. It was recorded at the Finca Altozano in Baja California, where the band members stayed as guests of celebrated chef Javier Plascencia — a longtime fan.

Argentine producer Sebastián Krys — the band’s longtime collaborator — calls this his Alan Lomax experiment. The album was recorded live on tape with a variety of strategically placed microphones capturing hints of ambient sonics — a sweet afternoon breeze, the clinking of glasses, the musicians’ banter, the soft sounds that accompany stillness. 

From the very beginning, the making of Cuatro Copas mirrors the band’s bohemian cosmovision: A communal approach where the quartet — together with carefully selected guest stars — get together to share the magic of creation, the unity of like-minded souls, homemade food, and more than a couple of drinks. In effect, the bottles of mezcal and never ending rounds of toasting quickly become a running joke throughout the documentary.

La Marisoul’s fragile lament is enveloped in spiraling lines of mournful electric guitars with soulful understatement on the track "Almohada." Guest artists liven things up, with Oaxacan sister duo Dueto Dos Rosas adding urgency to "Pescadores de Ensenada," while son jarocho master Patricio Hidalgo ventures into a lilting (yet hopeful) "Yo Vengo A Ofrecer Mi Corazón," the ‘90s Argentine rock anthem by Fito Páez.

Visibly delighted to be part of the bohemia, 60-year-old ranchera diva Aida Cuevas steals the show with her rousing rendition of "Cuatro Copas," the José Alfredo Jiménez classic. "Viva México!" she exclaims as the entire group sits around a bonfire at night, forging the past and future of Mexican American music into one.

Read more: La Santa Cecilia Perform "Someday, Someday New"

Following the screening, the band sat down for a Q&A session hosted by journalist Betto Arcos. Sitting on the first row, a visibly moved young woman from El Salvador thanked the band for helping her to cope with the complex web of feelings entailed in migrating from Latin America. La Santa’s songs, she said, reminded her of the loving abuelita who stayed behind.

"We love the old boleros and rancheras," said La Marisoul. "We became musicians by playing many of those songs in small clubs and quinceañeras. It’s a repertoire that we love, and I don’t think that will ever change."

Carlos touched on his experience being a member of Santa Cecilia for about seven years before he was able to secure legal status in the U.S. When the band started to get concert bookings in Texas, they would take long detours on their drives to avoid the possibility of being stopped by the authorities. Carlos thanked his wife Ana for the emotional support she provided during those difficult years.

Ramírez took the opportunity to acknowledge producer Krys for being an early champion of the band. "He had a vision, and he made us better," he said, flashing forward to a recent edition of the Vive Latino festival. "There were about 12,000 people to see us," he said. "And they were singing along to our tunes."

"The band is just an excuse to hang out with your friends," added La Marisoul just before La Santa performed two live songs. Her voice sounded luminous and defiant in the theater’s intimate space, always the protagonist in the group’s delicately layered arrangements.

"The first time I got to see the finished documentary, I felt proud of all the work we’ve done together," said producer Krys from his Los Angeles studio the day after the screening. "On the other hand, there’s a lot of work ahead of us. I believe La Santa Cecilia deserves wider exposure. They should be up there among the greatest artists in Latin music."

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The GRAMMY Hall Of Fame returns to celebrate its 50th anniversary with an inaugural gala and concert taking place Tuesday, May 21, at the NOVO Theater in Los Angeles
The GRAMMY Hall Of Fame returns to celebrate its 50th anniversary with an inaugural gala and concert taking place Tuesday, May 21, at the NOVO Theater in Los Angeles

Image courtesy of the GRAMMY Museum

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The GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Returns To Celebrate 50th Anniversary: Inaugural Gala & Concert Taking Place May 21 In Los Angeles

Following a two-year hiatus, the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame returns to celebrate its 50th anniversary with an inaugural gala and concert on Tuesday, May 21, at the NOVO Theater in Los Angeles. Ten recordings will be newly inducted into the Hall this year.

GRAMMYs/Mar 5, 2024 - 02:00 pm

Following a two-year hiatus, the GRAMMY Museum and Recording Academy are reinstating the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame on its 50th anniversary. The momentous event will be celebrated with an inaugural gala and concert on Tuesday, May 21, at the NOVO Theater in Los Angeles; tickets and performers for the event will be announced at a later date. As part of the return, 10 recordings, including four albums and six singles, will be newly inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame later this year.

The GRAMMY Hall Of Fame was established by the Recording Academy's National Trustees in 1973 to honor recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance that are at least 25 years old. Inductees are selected annually by a special member committee of eminent and knowledgeable professionals from all branches of the recording arts with final ratification by the Recording Academy's National Board of Trustees. There are currently 1,152 inducted recordings in the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame. View the full list GRAMMY Hall Of Fame past inductees.

This year, the GRAMMY Museum’s GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Gala will be the first of what will become an annual event, and includes a red carpet and VIP reception on the newly opened Ray Charles Terrace at the GRAMMY Museum, followed by a one-of-a-kind concert at the NOVO Theater in Downtown Los Angeles.

The inaugural gala and concert is produced by longtime executive producer of the GRAMMY Awards, Ken Ehrlich, along with Chantel Sausedo and Ron Basile and will feature musical direction by globally renowned producer and keyboardist Greg Phillinganes. For sponsorship opportunities, reach out to halloffame@grammymuseum.org.

Keep watching this space for more exciting news about the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame!

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GRAMMY Museum Celebrates Black History Month 2024

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The GRAMMY Museum Celebrates Black History Month 2024 With A Series Of Special Programs And Events

Throughout February, the GRAMMY Museum will celebrate the profound legacy and impact of Black music with workshops, screenings, and intimate conversations.

GRAMMYs/Feb 9, 2024 - 08:31 pm

The celebration isn't over after the 2024 GRAMMYs. In recognition of Black History Month, the GRAMMY Museum proudly honors the indelible impact of Black music on America and the fabric of global pop culture. 

This programming is a testament to the rich heritage and profound influence of Black artists, whose creativity and resilience have shaped the foundation of American music. Through a series of thoughtfully curated events — including educational workshops, family programs, special screenings, and intimate conversations — the Museum aims to illuminate the vibrant legacy and ongoing evolution of Black music. 

From a workshop on the rhythmic storytelling of hip-hop following its 50th anniversary and the soulful echoes of Bill Withers' classics, to the groundbreaking contributions of James Brown and the visionary reimagination of "The Wiz," these GRAMMY Museum programs encapsulate the enduring legacy and dynamic future of Black music.

The GRAMMY Museum invites audiences to delve into the stories, sounds, and souls that have woven Black music into the tapestry of our shared human experience. Through this journey, the Museum and the Recording Academy honor the artists, visionaries, and pioneers whose talents have forever altered the landscape of music and culture. 

Read on for additional information on the GRAMMY Museum's month-long tribute that explores, appreciates and celebrates the invaluable contributions of Black music to our world.

Thurs., Feb. 8

History of Hip-Hop Education Workshop

WHAT: In celebration of the 50 years of hip-hop, this workshop examines the unique evolution of Hip Hop from its origin to where the genre is today. Highlighting the golden age of Hip Hop, this lesson will provide students with a greater understanding of the struggles and triumphs of the genre.

WHEN: 11 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. 

REGISTER: Click here.

Sat., Feb. 10

Family Time: Grandma’s Hands

WHAT: Join us for a very special family program celebrating the recently released children’s book Grandma’s Hands based on one of Bill Withers’ most beloved songs. Bill’s wife, Marcia, and daughter, Kori, will participate in a book reading, conversation, audience Q&A, and performance, followed by a book signing. The program is free (4 tickets per household.)

WHEN: 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. 

REGISTER: Click here.

Mon., Feb. 12

Celebrating James Brown: Say It Loud

WHAT: The GRAMMY Museum hosts a special evening on the life and music of the late "Godfather of Soul" James Brown. The program features exclusive clips from A&E's forthcoming documentary James Brown: Say It Loud, produced in association with Polygram Entertainment, Mick Jagger’s Jagged Films and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s Two One Five Entertainment, followed by a conversation with Director Deborah Riley Draper, superstar Producer Jimmy Jam, and some surprises.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.  

REGISTER: Click here.

Sat., Feb. 17

Backstage Pass: "The Wiz"

WHAT: Presented in partnership with the African American Film Critics Association, join us for an afternoon spotlighting the famed Broadway Musical, "The Wiz," with the producers and creative team responsible for the Broadway bound reboot. The program will feature a lively conversation, followed by an audience Q&A in the Museum’s Clive Davis Theater, and will be hosted by AAFCA President, Gil Robertson, and GRAMMY Museum Education & Community Engagement Manager, Schyler O’Neal. The program is free (four tickets per household).

WHEN: 1 p.m.

REGISTER: Click here.

Thurs., Feb. 22

History of Hip-Hop Education Workshop

WHAT: In celebration of the 50 years of hip-hop, this workshop examines the unique evolution of Hip Hop from its origin to where the genre is today. Highlighting the golden age of Hip Hop, this lesson will provide students with a greater understanding of the struggles and triumphs of the genre.

WHEN: 11 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. 

REGISTER: Click here.

Reel To Reel: A Hip Hop Story

WHAT: In conjunction with the GRAMMY Museum's exhibit, Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit, the GRAMMY Museum is thrilled to host a special screening of A Hip Hop Story with a post-screening conversation featuring Affion Crockett to follow.

WHEN: 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.  

REGISTER: Click here.

Sun., Feb. 25

Lunar New Year Celebration

WHAT: Join us for a special program celebrating Lunar New Year as we usher in the Year of the Dragon with a performance by the South Coast Chinese Orchestra. The orchestra is from Orange County and uses both traditional Chinese instruments and western string instruments. It is led by Music Director, Jiangli Yu, Conductor, Bin He, and Executive Director, Yulan Chung. The program will take place in the Clive Davis Theater. This program is made possible by the generous support of Preferred Bank. The program is free (four tickets per household).

WHEN: 1:30 p.m.

REGISTER: Click here.

Tues., Feb. 27

A Conversation With Nicole Avant

WHAT: The GRAMMY Museum is thrilled to welcome best-selling author, award-winning film producer, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Ambassador Nicole Avant to the museum’s intimate 200-seat Clive Davis Theater for a conversation moderated by Jimmy Jam about her new memoir Think You’ll Be Happy – Moving Through Grief with Grit, Grace and Gratitude. All ticket buyers will receive a signed copy of the book.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.  

REGISTER: Click here.

GRAMMY.com’s 50th Anniversary Of Hip-Hop Coverage: A Recap

Annie Ray To Receive 2024 Music Educator Award
Annie Ray

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Virginia's Annie Ray To Be Honored With 2024 Music Educator Award

Presented by the Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Museum, 2024 Music Educator Award recognizes educators who have made a significant contribution and demonstrate a commitment to music education.

GRAMMYs/Feb 1, 2024 - 02:32 pm

Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs, Virginia educator Annie Ray will receive the 2024 Music Educator Award during the Recording Academy's Special Merit Awards Ceremony on Sat, Feb. 3.  

Ray is both the Orchestra Director and Performing Arts Department Chair at Annandale High School in Virginia's Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) system. She advocates for universal access to quality music education, and has developed creative opportunities to make music accessible to students of all demographics. 

For example, her FCPS Parent Orchestra enables just under 200 caregivers to learn to play their child’s instrument each year. Ray also created the Crescendo Orchestra program to bring the joy of orchestra to high school students with severe developmental or intellectual disabilities. In January 2022,  the program was featured in The Washington Post. 

Based on this work, TEDx reached out and asked Ray to give a talk in April 2022. She has presented at numerous colleges and conferences on the topic and was named the 2023 FCPS Outstanding Secondary Teacher of the Year for her work on equity in education. Ray is also a member of the StringRise professional development team and was a 2023 Wolf Trap Educator Guarantee for the AHS partnership with GRAMMY-nominated artist Christylez Bacon

She currently resides in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband Irving and their girls Eloise and Millie. She is an adventurer at heart, and her biggest bucket list item is to one day win "The Amazing Race."

As the Music Educator Award recipient, Ray will receive a $10,000 honorarium and matching grant for her school's music program. Nine additional finalists will receive a $1,000 honorarium and matching grants. The remaining 15 semifinalists will receive a $500 honorarium with matching school grants.

The nine semifinalists are:

Meg Byrne: Pleasant Valley High School  Bettendorf, Iowa

Ernesta Chicklowski: Roosevelt Elementary   Tampa, Florida

Michael Coelho: Ipswich Middle and High School Ipswich, Massachusetts

Antoine Dolberry: P.S. 103 Hector Fontanez School  Bronx, New York

Jasmine Fripp: KIPP Nashville Collegiate High School   Nashville, Tennessee

J.D. Frizzell: Briarcrest Christian School  Eads, Tennessee

Coty Raven Morris: Portland State University  Portland, Oregon

Kevin Schoenbach: Oswego High School  Oswego, Illinois

Matthew Shephard: Meridian Early College High School  Sanford, Michigan

The award is open to current U.S. music teachers, and anyone can nominate a teacher — students, parents, friends, colleagues, community members, school deans, and administrators. Teachers are also able to nominate themselves, and nominated teachers are notified and invited to fill out an application. Initial nominations were submitted from all 50 states.

Nominations and applications for the 2025 Music Educator Award are now open via grammymusicteacher.com.

The Music Educator Award program, including honorariums, is made possible by the generosity and support of The Chuck Lorre Family Foundation. In addition, the American Choral Directors Association, National Association for Music Education, NAMM Foundation, and National Education Association support this program through outreach to their constituencies.

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