Photo: Boston Public Library, Flickr

After an unremarkable stint at Ocean County Community College, [Bruce Springsteen] relocated to Asbury Park, a gritty coastal community that scarcely resembled the glitzy seaside resort of its earlier days. By that time, jet travel and air conditioning had made distant locations like California, Florida, and the Caribbean more attractive to local vacationers. Deeply segregated and suffering from massive unemployment, the city erupted in violence between black rioters and a mostly white police force in July 1970, resulting in $4 million of property damage and 92 gunshot casualties. The town soon became a shadow of its former self—a half-desolate collection of small beach bungalows, decaying hotels, a modest convention center, and a handful of greasy-spoon diners.

But what it lacked in vigor and polish, Asbury Park made up for in artistic vitality. Lining its boardwalk were a motley assortment of bars where aspiring Jersey musicians like the drummer Vini Lopez, the keyboardists Danny Federici and David Sancious, the saxophonist Clarence Clemons, and the guitarist Steve Van Zandt—all of whom eventually played alongside Springsteen—forged a dynamic, interracial, and working-class rock-and-roll scene.

Joshua Zeitz, writing in The Atlantic about how Bruce Springsteen’s breakout album Born to Run captured the decline of the American Dream and embodied “the lost ’70s.”

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