The First Song Bruce Springsteen Ever Learned to Play

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen approaches the sixth decade of his extensive career. He still holds a strong position in music for his unique blend of Americana lyrics and pop-rock melodies.

Famously known as ‘The Boss,’ Springsteen has achieved both commercial success and critical acclaim that few artists can match. Over his career, he earned 20 Grammy Awards and a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Not to forge the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama.

Springsteen’s live performances are as legendary as his studio recordings. He is renowned for his marathon sets and is often seen with his beloved, well-worn Fender Telecaster guitar. Springsteen has graced thousands of stages since he first ventured into music in the mid-1960s.

However, even the most accomplished performers had to start somewhere.

For Springsteen, that starting point was a New York City social club ‘Elks Lodge’ in Freehold. Inspired by a televised performance of The Beatles, Springsteen began performing at this venue on Sundays. Admission was a mere 35 cents back then. Each band would play a modest set of three to five songs to an audience of less than 100 people.

During an interview on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Bruce Springsteen fondly reminisces about kicking off his performances. He also talked about the first rock song he ever learned, The Beatles’ classic Twist and Shout. He quips, “And I’ve been singing it ever since.”

Before he delved into rock, Bruce Springsteen recalls that the first song he ever learned on the guitar was the traditional folk tune ‘Greensleeves,’ a far cry from the vibrant Americana rock and roll he’s known for today. The crowd’s reaction to this revelation seems to be a mixture of disbelief and disappointment, as Springsteen acknowledges, “You can hear the reaction from your audience. ‘Greensleeves,’ he’s playing ‘Greensleeves’? Damn.”

He goes on to explain to Fallon, “It was a folk song. The first thing I had was a big book of American folk music, and so I learned that first because it only had two chords. And then eventually I made my way to the third chord, which allowed you to play ‘Twist and Shout,’ so…”

Springsteen’s motivation for learning ‘Greensleeves’ wasn’t rooted in a love for British folk music. It was rather in his desire to master a Beatles song eventually. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he revealed that hearing The Beatles on the radio changed his life, saying, “because I was going to successfully pick the guitar up and learn how to play.”

He vividly remembers a moment when he heard ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ while in the car with his mother: “I immediately demanded that she let me out. I ran to the bowling alley, ran down a long neon-lit aisle, down the bowling alley into the bowling alley. Ran to the phone booth, got in the phone booth, and immediately called my girl and asked, ‘Have you heard this band called The Beatles?’ After that, it was nothing but rock and roll guitars.”

While ‘Greensleeves’ eventually became a humorous anecdote he would share on talk shows, The Beatles’ influence on Springsteen endured. Rock and roll became his primary musical passion, and his rendition of ‘Twist and Shout’ continues to be a cherished part of his live performances.

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