New Jersey has been a proving ground for musicians for decades. It's where Frank Sinatra found out he had a voice and a way with women and where the Jonas Brothers began building their multimedia assault on the tween nation.
But often, when you mention music and New Jersey to someone in the same sentence, they will emit the following noise:
Bruce Springsteen has the honor of being in the first class inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, during a ceremony last year, nine years after being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 15 years after winning an Academy Award for his contribution to the movie "Philadelphia" and 24 years after winning his first of 19 Grammys. At the induction ceremony in Newark, the Freehold, Monmouth County-raised Springsteen offered these words of comfort for his statemates:
"Rise up, my fellow New Jerseyans, for we are all members of a confused but noble race. We of the state that will never get any respect, we who bear the cruelness of the forever uncool. A chip on the shoulders of those with forever something to prove. And even with this wonderful hall of fame, we know that there's another bad Jersey joke just around the corner."
Springsteen has incorporated New Jersey into many of his songs and shows, from "Atlantic City" to his cover of Tom Waits' "Jersey Girl." But The Boss is far from a regional flavor. He and his E Street Band, the group of musicians with whom he has played since 1972, performed at this year's Super Bowl, and Springsteen sang at President Barack Obama's inauguration.
Still, in spite of his national fame, Springsteen's music maintains a distinctive New Jersey vibe. From character studies of boardwalk hustlers to the redemption he sees in fast cars riding Route 9 at night, New Jersey themes are never far away.
The E Street Band brings the energy of New Jersey's streets to the concert stage as well. Come September, Springsteen will be 60 years old, but he still runs around onstage as if each concert is an athletic event. In June, the band headlined the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee, putting on a three-hour show.
Rock 'n' roll photographer Mark Weiss, who grew up in Old Bridge Township, Middlesex County, said hearing Born to Run in 1975 at age 16 was an inspiration. "Bruce was this guy that made it seem if he could do it, anyone could. He wrote about struggle and the hardships every kid goes through. So you believed him, especially when he made a name for himself."