Bruce Springsteen, 'Born To Run,' And The Lawsuit That Almost Ruined His Career

By | July 21, 2020

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Bruce Springsteen backstage at Hammersmith Odeon, London before his first UK show, 18th November 1975. (Photo by Mark and Colleen Hayward/Getty Images)

With the 1975 album Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen looked like the new king of rock 'n roll -- "Thunder Road," "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" and the title track would become classic rock anthems -- but a lawsuit threatened deny him the throne.

Springsteen was hailed as the voice of a generation on the covers of Newsweek and Time magazines, but instead of capitalizing on his success and hitting the studio to record another album he put on a suit and went to court. He spent much of 1976 and 1977 -- important years in rock music that should have been important years for Bruce -- in a courtroom fighting for his professional life in a lawsuit against Laurel Canyon, Ltd., owned by his manager and publisher Mike Appel.

What began as a partnership based on getting Springsteen’s voice to the masses ended in bitterness, and a three year wait before The Boss took the world to the Darkness on the Edge of Town. Not as much about money as it was about trust and the ability of an artist to create, Springsteen’s lawsuit against his manager and producer was propped up with bitter feelings that lasted long after the suit was resolved.

In the beginning Mike Appel believed in Springsteen’s voice

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source: rolling stone

It’s worth noting that before the venom of the court room, Mike Appel knew that Bruce Springsteen was one of the most important voices of his generation. This was in 1971 when Springsteen was playing clubs in New Jersey for paltry sums. Tinker West, a surfboard manufacturer who was Springsteen’s manager at the time, told the singer-songwriter to meet with Appel to see whether he could make something happen.

The two met up that year and Appel told him to keep playing and to write some more songs. Springsteen spent the next couple of years in California building an underground fan base, and when Bruce returned to the east coast Appel thought he was ready for the big time. In 1972, Springsteen was signed to Columbia records as well as a management and publishing deal with Appel.