Nils Lofgren is an American rock music singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. Famous as a solo artist, he is also a long-time member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.
Lofgren was born in Chicago, Illinois, on June 21, 1951 to Swedish/Italian parents. Moving to the Washington, D.C., area as a teenager, Lofgren’s first instrument was the accordion. He was also a competitive gymnast in high school, a skill that popped up later in his career.
Lofgren joined Neil Young’s band (Crazy Horse) at age 17, playing piano on the After the Gold Rush album. Lofgren would maintain a close musical relationship with Young, appearing on his Tonight’s the Night album and tour among others. He was also briefly a member of Crazy Horse, appearing on their 1971 LP and contributing songs to their catalogue.
He used the Neil Young album credits to land his band, Grin, a record deal in 1971. From 1971 to 1974 the band released four albums of catchy, hard rock, with guitar as his primary instrument. Though Lofgren wrote the majority of the group’s songs, he often shared vocal duties with other members of the band. After the second album Nils added brother Tom Lofgren to the fold as a rhythm guitarist. Though Grin was a success with critics, they failed to hit the big time.
In 1974 Grin disbanded to make way for a long and intricate Nils Lofgren solo career. Lofgren’s self-titled debut was a huge success with critics (a 1975 Rolling Stone review by Jon Landau labeled it one of the finest rock albums of the year), and he achieved progressive rock radio hits in the mid-1970s with “Back It Up”, “Keith Don’t Go” (about Keith Richards’ Toronto drug arrest crisis), and “I Came to Dance”. His song “Bullets Fever”, written about the 1978 NBA champion Washington Bullets, would become a cult favorite in the Washington area. Throughout the 1970s Lofgren continued to release solo albums and toured extensively with a backing band that again usually included brother Tom on rhythm guitar. Lofgren’s concerts displayed his reputation for theatrics, such as playing guitar while doing flips on a trampoline.
In 1984, he joined Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band as the replacement for “Miami Steve” Van Zandt on guitar and vocals, in time for their massive Born in the U.S.A. Tour. Following the tour he appeared on Late Night with David Letterman, to promote his 1985 solo release, Flip. The E Street Band toured again with Springsteen in 1988 on the Tunnel of Love Express. In 1989 Springsteen broke up the E Street Band, and they remained mainly inactive for the decade after 1989, but both he and Van Zandt rejoined when Springsteen revived the band in 1999 for their Reunion Tour, followed by The Rising and another massive tour in 2002 and 2003.
Lofgren continues to record and to tour as a solo act, with Springsteen, with Patti Scialfa, with Neil Young, and as a two-time member of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band. Many of the people he worked with on those tours appeared on his 1991 album, Silver Lining. During the 2000s he got his own “Nils Lofgren Day” in Montgomery County, Maryland, (August 25). In 2006 Lofgren released Sacred Weapon, featuring guest appearances by David Crosby, Graham Nash and Willie Nelson.
In 2006 he recorded a live DVD, “Nils Lofgren & Friends: Acoustic Live”.
And in 2007, he appeared playing guitar as part of Jerry Lee Lewis’ backing band for Lewis’ Last Man Standing
Old School (2011) is a classic Nils rock album featuring twelve songs. Eleven are new originals by Nils and “Irish Angel” is beautiful ballad written by Bruce McCabe that Nils has been performing in his shows recently. “Let Her Get Away” is a haunting acoustic gem co-written with Root Boy Slim. Featuring rough, raw blues dobros and searing electric guitars to beautiful acoustic tracks, Old School is classic Nils at his diverse best. Featuring the legendary Paul Rodgers, Lou Gramm and Sam Moore as guest vocalists, this album has it all and promises to rank among his best.