Since becoming a full-fledged member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band in 1984, Patti Scialfa has been the Boss’ partner onstage and in life (via Rolling Stone). Married in 1991, Scialfa and Springsteen have one of the most successful marriages in show business, a union that’s endured and flourished for three decades and counting.
Scialfa is a wife, mother, singer, and rock goddess, joining her musical talent with her husband’s legendary band in thousands of onstage performances over the years — and even joining Springsteen solo for his critically-acclaimed 2017 to 2018 run on Broadway. Holding her own in what is generally regarded as one of the best rock bands of all time is no easy feat, yet it’s something the talented redhead has done with aplomb for nearly 40 years, all while serving as muse and spouse to a bona fide music icon.
Scialfa has been in the public eye for so long that Springsteen’s fans may be surprised to realize how much they may not know about her. With Springsteen making news after a controversial DWI arrest, there’s no better time to take a deep dive into the untold truth of Patti Scialfa.
Bruce Springsteen's wife credits her grandfather for giving her the gift of music
Growing up in the New Jersey town of Deal, Patti Scialfa came from a musical family. As she told The Times, her maternal grandfather, Jerome Morris, was a songwriter from Belfast in Northern Ireland. Morris’ biggest claim to fame: writing the British dancehall favorite “A Little of What You Fancy Does You Good”, a hit for British singer Marie Lloyd.
In an interview with New Jersey Monthly, Scialfa recalled that when her parents went to work at their television and electronics shop, she and her siblings would often spend the day with those grandparents. Her grandfather, she said, would invite her to join him at the piano. “I was 7 or 8 year old, and I would play piano with him. He would be composing, working out the melodies, and he would say, ‘Which ending do you like — this one? Or this one, when the notes go here?’ My opinion actually mattered to him,” she said.
Given that this was during a time when children were supposed to be “seen and not heard,” she added, her grandfather seeking her feedback “was really powerful for me.”
Patti Scialfa has known Bruce Springsteen since she was a teenager
Patti Scialfa first met Bruce Springsteen at the Stone Pony, the iconic Asbury Park club where Springsteen got his start. One night she hopped onstage to sing a few songs with a friend’s band, she told New Jersey Monthly, when Springsteen approached her and complimented her singing. “It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” she shared, recalling that they “had a beer together” and spent some time in conversation.
At that point, Scialfa was living in New York City, but would often return home on the weekends. Knowing that she didn’t have a car, Springsteen “would offer to drop me off at my mom’s [in Deal],” she revealed, noting they’d sometimes share a meal at a local burger joint. Scialfa was certainly aware of Springsteen before they met; when she was 14 and he was 18, she knew of his reputation as “the fastest guitar player… He always had the best bands, you knew that. And you knew that he was serious. He was the man with the focus and the tremendous dedication to what he was doing.”
Patti Scialfa first tried to audition for Bruce Springsteen's band when she was just 15
While that fateful night at the Stone Pony may have been the first time Patti Scialfa first met future husband Bruce Springsteen, it technically wasn’t the first time they’d spoken. In a 2004 interview with Rolling Stone, Scialfa mentioned that a friend from high school had jogged her memory, leading her to remember that she once attempted to audition for one of Springsteen’s early bands. “I had seen an ad in the Asbury Park Press that read “Touring band, must be able to travel,” she explained. She called the number listed in the ad, and Springsteen picked up. “He was very sweet on the phone,” she said. “I was so relieved.”
Scialfa’s hopes of joining his then-band were dashed when he asked how old she was, and she revealed she was just 15. She was too young, he told her, advising Scialfa to finish high school and wishing her good luck.
Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa fell in love onstage
Over the years, Patti Scialfa and Bruce Springsteen kept in touch as she watched his rise to fame. In 1984, Springsteen had released his blockbuster Born in the USA album and invited her to audition for a spot in the E Street Band for their tour. The audition apparently went well, because Springsteen invited her to join the band — three days before the tour began.
As Scialfa found her place in the band, the sparks that flew between her and Springsteen onstage eventually caught fire. This, however, was complicated by the fact that Springsteen was married to actress Julianne Phillips, whom he wed in 1985. After reports emerged in 1988 that Springsteen and Scialfa were having an affair, Phillips filed for divorce.
In 1990, Scialfa and Springsteen welcomed son Evan James Springsteen, and got married in 1991 (daughter Jessica Rae Springsteen was born that same year). They weren’t youngsters when they tied the knot; Springsteen was 41, Scialfa 37. In a 1993 Rolling Stone interview, Scialfa recalled being “very protective of myself and my relationship,” in their early days, “trying to move through that tough period as gracefully as I possibly could.”
Bruce Springsteen played on Patti Scialfa's 1993 solo album
In 1993, Patti Scialfa stepped out on her own with her debut solo album, Rumble Doll. Of course, the album wasn’t entirely a solo effort; husband Bruce Springsteen made a guest appearance on two tracks of the album, produced by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell. “You know how you get close to something you want and then you start doing things to ensure that you don’t quite get it? I did a lot of that,” she told Rolling Stone of the process of making Rumble Doll.
A review from the time, published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel, was dismissive, describing Rumble Doll as “one of the year’s great disappointments,” complaining that Scialfa “doesn’t have the front-and-center persona required to step out from the backup shadows and make it as a principal performer.” On the flip side, Rolling Stone declared Rumble Doll to be the second-best Springsteen album not made by The Boss himself.
More than a decade later, Scialfa released a followup, her 2004 album 23rd Street Lullaby. Her subsequent release, Play It As It Lays, came out in 2007.
Patti Scialfa is the driving force behind Bruce Springsteen
As partners in both life and music, Patti Scialfa and Bruce Springsteen have proven to be a winning combination. This, Springsteen explained in an interview with American Songwriter, is most definitely the case in the studio. That became clear while Scialfa and Springsteen were recording “Hymn to Him,” their contribution to legendary singer-songwriter Dion’s 2020 album Blues with Friends. Springsteen raved about his wife’s contributions during those recording sessions. “Patti was really kind of producing the session, so she gave me a lot of direction as to where to go. She’s quite good at production,” Springsteen gushed. “She had all these different vocal parts and it was just incredibly creative.”
In fact, Springsteen admitted he wasn’t quite sure where she was taking the song as “she spent quite a few hours just very carefully layering part after part after part until something really happened.” Scialfa, he explained, “was assisting melodically and just telling me what she was hearing, and I really was there supporting her.” Ultimately, Springsteen added, Scialfa was able to make that recording session “easy and it was fun.”
Bruce Springsteen's wife wrote the music for a movie
When Patti Scialfa and Bruce Springsteen lived in Beverly Hills in the early ’90s, they became close to next-door neighbor Bobby Roth, a TV and film director; they grew even closer when Roth married Springsteen’s sister, photographer Pamela Springsteen. When Roth called Scialfa up in 2020 asking if she could contribute some songs to Pearl, a new teen drama he’d directed, she didn’t hesitate. “He’s part of the family,” she said in an interview with Rolling Stone.
Additionally, Scialfa shared details about the two songs that she wrote and recorded for the film, “Motherless Child” and “Plastic Horses.” (Roth also used some songs from her 1993 solo debut Rumble Doll in the movie.) “Motherless Child,” Scialfa explained, was a song she’d been working on for ages. “I had the basic melody and music and the chorus,” she shared, but was given the impetus to complete the song when Roth told her about Pearl‘s plot: a teenage girl (Larsen Thompson) is forced to live with the father she’s never known (Anthony LaPaglia) after her stepfather murders her mother. “I thought to myself, ‘This will be perfect for his film,” she added.
Bruce Springsteen turned his SiriusXM show into a loving birthday tribute to his wife
As any hardcore Bruce Springsteen fan certainly knows, the Boss has his very own satellite radio channel on SiriusXM, E Street Radio; it’s home to his hits, live concerts from his archives, and more. In 2020, Springsteen began hosting a show for the channel, From My Home to Yours, an intimate affair in which he plays records that are meaningful to him and shares stories from his life.
In July 2020, Springsteen changed things up by devoting the entire episode to wife Patti Scialfa in celebration of her 67th birthday. The focus was on Scialfa and her solo work, and Springsteen welcomed his wife as the episode’s special guest.
As Springsteen told listeners, as reported by NJArts.net, “today we will be featuring the music of my red-headed Jersey girl, and her great albums, from Rumble Doll, 23rd Street Lullaby, Play It As It Lays.” According to Springsteen, Scialfa’s first album, “to this day, stands out from your other two due to its particular sound. And I think it would be the only record of your three that I would call a pure rock record.”
Bruce Springsteen and his wife are so lovey-dovey they gross out their kids
Bruce Springsteen and wife Patti Scialfa aren’t shy about showing their affection for each other, whether it’s onstage or at home. As Scialfa told Rolling Stone, that hasn’t always gone down well with the couple’s children. “They say, ‘Please don’t do that in front of us,'” Scialfa said of her kids’ disgust at the couple’s PDA. “I said, ‘Hey, you’re going to be happy one day when you look back and know your parents really loved each other.'”
Additionally, Springsteen and Scialfa’s children are thoroughly unimpressed that their parents are rock stars. “They just watch and get bored — because it’s their parents,” Scialfa told The Guardian of their kids’ reaction to watching them onstage. And while the music they produce alongside the other members of the E Street Band has gained millions of fans all over the world, Scialfa admitted that their children aren’t necessarily among them. “If I walked into a room where one of my kids was listening to Bruce’s music I think I’d faint,” she joked.
Patti Scialfa acted with Bruce Springsteen in a movie
Not only did Patti Scialfa write and record music for a movie, she also acted in one. Joining husband Bruce Springsteen, the couple played themselves in Broken Poet. The 2020 film, noted a report in the Asbury Park Press, tells the story of mysterious rock legend Joe Lion (played by singer-songwriter Elliott Murphy), who is presumed to have died in Paris 40 years earlier. When a music journalist hears a broken-down old street busker in a Paris metro station who sounds strikingly like the long-lost rocker, she becomes obsessed with solving the mystery of Joe Lion’s disappearance.
Springsteen and Scialfa make a brief appearance in the film, portraying themselves. “Jake was, even back then, he was a little more miserable than most artists, but he was a sweet guy, he always had a sweet heart,” says Springsteen in the film (according to Asbury Park Press), as he and Scialfa are interviewed by the journalist, played by actress Joana Preiss. “I haven’t seen him in a long time,” Scialfa chimes in, “but I heard he jumped off a bridge in Paris.”
Bruce Springsteen's wife is a musical force in her own right
Given that Patti Scialfa is married to one of the most iconic rock stars on the planet, she’s become used to seeing her husband take center stage. “When you’re married to someone famous, people know you, but they’re not really seeing you,” she told Rolling Stone of what it’s like to be Mrs. Bruce Springsteen.
As drummer Steve Jordan, who co-produced Scialfa’s 2004 album, 23rd Street Lullaby, pointed out, “the person she’s married to casts an extremely long shadow, so there’s a tendency to get lost in the sauce.” Springsteen himself concurred, pointing out that “Patti has only been able to use a small portion of her talent onstage with the E Street Band.”
Scialfa’s work as a solo artist is understandably overshadowed by that of her husband, but it certainly hasn’t gone unrecognized; in fact, critics have consistently praised her solo albums over the years. Entertainment Weekly lauded her 1993 debut Rumble Doll, saying it shows she’s “much more than just Mrs. Springsteen,” while a review of her 2009 album Play It As It Lays in The Guardian expressed admiration for her “effective combination of earthiness and poise.”
Patti Scialfa became her husband's quarantine barber
For Bruce Springsteen and wife Patti Scialfa, 2020 was spent largely within the confines of their home, quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking with Rolling Stone, Scialfa described what their life had been like during those months. Admitting she “can’t complain,” given that they live in a spacious home on a large property in rural New Jersey, Scialfa shared the most difficult thing about quarantine was “being unable to be physically close to those who are most important to you.”
Additionally, during the interview, Scialfa was asked about a photo she shared on Instagram, posing with Springsteen while brandishing a pair of scissors, writing that she’d just given her husband “his first quarantine cut.” On becoming barber to the Boss, she explained, “I hate to say this, but you know how you’re just living your life and you’re not thinking? I’m giving him a haircut. He doesn’t have a shirt on. I look like I’m a crazy woman.” However, Scialfa also admitted she’s proud of her newly acquired skill as a hairstylist. “I am the master of the scissors in residence,” she declared. “I give him a haircut every month and a half.”
Bruce Springsteen's wife gets nervous when her daughter competes in equestrian events
Jessica Springsteen, daughter of Bruce Springsteen and wife Patti Scialfa, has made a name for herself in the world of equestrian competition. According to Equestrian Living, she’s considered to be a “world-class champion show jumper” who began horseback riding when she was just 5.
According to Jessica, her parents have come to gain a deep appreciation of just how skilled she’s become at the sport. “It’s become such a passion for both of them, which is amazing for me that I get to share it with them,” she said in an interview with Parade. However, her parents’ reactions when watching her compete are as different as night and day. “My mom gets nervous because she wants me to do well,” she explained. “But my dad actually finds it really relaxing to come out to the shows and just sit and watch.”
Patti Scialfa is a quintessential Jersey girl
Patti Scialfa is a born-and-bred Jersey girl, growing up just 10 miles away from Bruce Springsteen in the Garden State. Although she’s lived in other places — including Miami, California and New York City — she and Springsteen ultimately settled in the state of their birth.
In an interview with New Jersey Monthly, Scialfa discussed some of the attributes that go into being a Jersey girl. “A Jersey girl has toughness,” Scialfa declared. “She’s game, tomboyish, free of spirit, and very human and humble.” Then there’s the distinctive “big hair,” which Scialfa admitted is something she’s come to embrace. “It just naturally goes that way. It’s so humid in Jersey! When I go outside in the summer, my hair is like this,” she revealed, gesturing with her arms to mimic “a big halo around her head.”
Having “big hair,” Scialfa explained, is something that she and other Jersey girls simply live with, and that’s become part of their shared identity. “It’s who you are,” she explained. “You’re a Jersey girl.”
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