On Tour: Springsteen Pays Tribute to David Bowie and Glenn Frey

by Steve Spohn
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Bruce pays tribute to Glenn Frey [photo: Joseph Kubon]

Over the years, Bruce Springsteen has paid tribute to departed friends and heroes during his live performances. This past week, he honored brothers in arms David Bowie and Glenn Frey.

There have been others. Bruce has paid in-concert homage to George Harrison, Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer (way past his death), John Lennon, Warren Zevon, Johnny Cash and Levon Helm. Springsteen had a personal connection to all of them – some were friends, some were musical acquaintances, and others were heroes.

Bowie1976_edited-1Tragically, David Bowie died on January 10, 2016, just two days after his 69th birthday. Bruce’s River Tour opened six days later in Pittsburgh, and he honored the departed rock star. Before Springsteen ripped into “Rebel Rebel,” he told the audience about David Bowie’s early support of his work. For that, Springsteen remains eternally grateful, and he let everybody know. Although they were from different worlds, the artists kept in touch throughout the years, and clearly, David was a man that Bruce appreciated and respected greatly.

Special thanks to YouTube contributor dvddubbingguy, who put together this video with fan footage and professional audio.

GlennFreyMainGlenn Frey, founding member of the Eagles, was one of the America’s great singer-songwriters. He died on January 18, 2016. Frey crossed paths with Bruce many times at various musical events over the years, such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame shows.

Although they weren’t close friends, Springsteen and Frey certainly admired each other’s work. It was rumored the Eagles harbored some friendly jealousy regarding the widespread attention Springsteen was getting in the mid-’70’s, and that the band’s song “New Kid In Town” revolves around Bruce. That claim has been contradicted by singer-songwriter J.D. Souther – who co-wrote some of the Eagles’ biggest hits – but it’s an urban legend that won’t seem to die.

At Chicago’s United Center, Bruce paid homage to Frey and the Eagles by playing a song right in his wheelhouse – a track Glenn co-wrote with Jackson Browne. “Take It Easy” was the Eagles first single, which peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in July of 1972. The song would eventually become synonymous with Glenn Frey. He will be sorely missed.

Steve Spohn is a former Saturday Night Live and Nickelodeon Television executive. Growing up near Princeton, NJ, led to a musical addiction, with WMMR in Philly and WNEW in NYC providing the daily dose. When not attending or planning to attend Bruce Springsteen concerts, he's plugging away as a screenwriter in Beverly Hills. Reach Steve at SSpohn@SongMango.com.