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Nils Lofgren

Nils Lofgren at Ronnie Scotts, 1997
Background information
Birth name Nils Hilmer Lofgren
Also known as Lefty, Crazy Horse
Born June 21, 1951 (1951-06-21) (age 58)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Genres Rock, blues rock, classical
Occupations Musician, songwriter, athlete
Instruments Guitar, Keyboards, Accordion
Years active 1965–present
Labels A&M, Columbia, MCA, Rykodisc, Capitol, Vision Music, Pure Records
Associated acts Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Crazy Horse, Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, Patti Scialfa, Grin
Website Official Website

Nils Lofgren (born Nils Hilmer Lofgren, June 21, 1951, Chicago, Illinois, United States) is an American rock music singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. Famous as a solo artist, he has marked 25 years[1] as a member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band as well as a former member of Crazy Horse and Grin.




Early life and career

Lofgren was born in Chicago in 1951 to Swedish/Italian parents. Moving to the suburban town of Garrett Park, Maryland, on the northern border of Washington, D.C. as a child, Lofgren's first instrument was classical accordion, beginning at age 5,[2] which he studied seriously for ten years.[3] After studying classical music and jazz, throughout his youth, Lofgren switched his emphasis to rock music, and focused on the piano and the guitar.[2] By 1969, Lofgren formed the band Grin, with bassist Bob Gordon, and drummer Bob Berberich, and the group played in the venues throughout the Washington, D.C. area. Lofgren had been a competitive gymnast in high school,[4] a skill that popped up later in his career.

Lofgren joined Neil Young's band at age 17, playing piano and guitar on the album After the Gold Rush.[3] Young gave him this role despite his having virtually no experience on the instrument; Lofgren worked on his parts around-the-clock when recording was not in session.[3] Lofgren maintained 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.


Lofgren used the Neil Young album credits to land his band Grin a record deal in 1971. Lofgren had formed the band with bassist Bob Gordon, and drummer Bob Berberich, in 1969 and the group played in the venues throughout the Washington, D.C. area. The band had a strong local fan base, releasing four critically acclaimed albums[1] of catchy, hard rock, from 1971 to 1974, with guitar as Lofgren's primary instrument. The single "White Lies" got heavy airplay on Washington, D.C.-area radio. Lofgren wrote the majority of the group's songs, and often shared vocal duties with other members of the band (primarily drummer Bob Berberich). After the second album Nils added brother Tom Lofgren as a rhythm guitarist. Grin failed to hit the big time, and were released by their record company.[3]

Solo career, part I

In 1974 Grin disbanded. Lofgren's eponymous debut solo album was a success with critics: (a 1975 Rolling Stone review by Jon Landau labeled it one of the finest rock albums of the year), it was number 5 in the NME list of albums of the year[5] and "Cry Tough" was voted number 10 in the 1976 NME Album round up.[6] He achieved progressive rock radio hits in the mid-1970s with "Back It Up", "Keith Don't Go" and "I Came to Dance". His song "Bullets Fever", about the 1978 NBA champion Washington Bullets, would become a favorite in the Washington area.[3] Throughout the 1970s, Lofgren released 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 1971 he appeared on stage on the Roy Buchanan Special, PBS TV, with Bill Graham. In 1973 he appeared with Grin on ABC on Midnight Special, performing 3 songs live. In 1978 he wrote and sang the "Nobody Bothers Me" theme for a D.C. Jhoon Rhee Tae Kwon Do advertisement, and also appeared in the notorious "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" movie. In 1987 he contributed the TV Show theme arrangement for Hunter. In 1993 he contributed to The Simpsons, with two Christmas jingles with Bart. In 1995 he appeared on a PBS tribute to the Beatles along with Dr. John. From 1991–95 he was the CableAce Awards musical director and composer.

E Street Band

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, but Lofgren 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, then again for the Magic album and world tour of 2007/2008, and most recently for the Working on a Dream Tour.

Solo career, part II

Lofgren, Beacon Theater Benefit For Arthur Lee, Photo Courtesy: Lydia Kavanagh

Lofgren continues to record and to tour as a solo act, 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, Willie Nelson and Martin Sexton. In 2006 he recorded a live DVD Nils Lofgren & Friends: Acoustic Live.

On June 23, 2006, Lofgren performed at a benefit concert for Arthur Lee at New York's Beacon Theater, along with Robert Plant, Ian Hunter, Yo La Tengo and Garland Jeffreys. In 2007, he appeared playing guitar as part of Jerry Lee Lewis' backing band for Lewis' Last Man Standing Live concert DVD. He released The Loner – Nils Sings Neil, an album of acoustic covers of Neil Young songs, in 2008.

In September 2008, Lofgren had hip replacement surgery for both of his hips as a result of years of playing basketball, "performance 'flips' on stage and age."[7] Lofgren has stated on his website that he feels he'll be in good condition.

Other work

Novelist Clive Cussler lives close to Lofgren's Arizona home, and collaborated on a song with him, which they co-wrote, and recorded, titled, "What Ever Happened to Muscatel?"[8]

Musical equipment

Lofgren primarily uses a variety of Fender guitars and amplifers.[9]





Grin discography

With Neil Young

Solo discography

  • 1975: Nils Lofgren (A&M)
  • 1975: Back It Up!! (Live) Promotional LP (A&M)
  • 1976: Cry Tough (A&M)
  • 1977: I Came to Dance (A&M)
  • 1978: Night After Night (A&M)
  • 1979: Nils (A&M)
  • 1981: Night Fades Away (Backstreet/MCA)
  • 1981: Best of Nils Lofgren (A&M)
  • 1982: Rhythm Romance vinyl only, UK (A&M)
  • 1983: Wonderland (Backstreets/MCA)
  • 1985: Flip (CBS)
  • 1986: Code Of The Road, Live '85, Europe/Japan only (A&M)
  • 1987: Classics Vol. 13/Best Of Nils Lofgren (A&M)
  • 1990: Walk Don't Run, Best Of, UK only (Connissuer)
  • 1991: Silver Lining (Rykodisc)
  • 1992: Crooked Line (Rykodisc)
  • 1993: Every Breath, Soundtrack (Stampede)
  • 1993: Every Breath, with 4 track EP, diff. cover, with Lou Gramm, Dutch (SPV)
  • 1993: Every Breath, RE, diff cover, (Vision)
  • 1993: Live On The Test, UK only (Windsong)
  • 1994: Code Of The Road, Live (Stampede)
  • 1994: Soft Fun, Tough Tears – Best Of with Grin, Australia only (Raven)
  • 1995: Damaged Goods(Pure)
  • 1995: Shine Silently, Best Of, Germany only (Spectrum)
  • 1996: Steal Your Heart, Best of, Dutch only (A&M)
  • 1997: Acoustic Live (Vision)
  • 1997: Archive Live, Live N.J. Stone Pony 1985 (A.A.)
  • 1997: Code Of The Road, RE, diff cover, Live 1985 (Right Stuff)
  • 1998: Acoustic Live, RE, diff. cover (Right Stuff)
  • 1998: Into the Night, Best Of, Germany Live (BMG)
  • 1998: Best Of A&M Years, Nils+Grin Dutch only (Spectrum)
  • 1998: New Lives BBC, UK only (HUX)
  • 1999: Ultimate Collection, Best of (Hip-O)
  • 2001: Bootleg, 1975, Live (Vision)
  • 2001: Nils Lofgren, re-issue with 2 bonus tracks (A&M)
  • 2001: Nils, with 1 bonus track (A&M)
  • 2001: Flip, with 1 bonus track (CBS)
  • 2001: Breakaway Angel, (Vision)
  • 2002: Tuff Stuff-The Best of the All-Madden Team Band (Vision)
  • 2003: Nils Lofgren Band Live (Vision)
  • 2006: Sacred Weapon (Vision)
  • 2008: The Loner – Nils Sings Neil (Vision)


External links


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