Strange Things About Bruce Springsteen's Marriage

Bruce Springsteen has reached a level of fame that's almost unimaginable. He's sold more than 15 million copies of Born in the U.S.A. alone, but before he was the Boss — with undeniably more widespread adoration than New Jersey's actual bosses, lest we forget former Gov. Chris Christie's bridge closure scandal — he was just a struggling musician playing in dives along the Shore. Patti Scialfa, who tied the knot with the star in 1991, has been there for all of it.

These two Jersey-bred icons are one of the music industry's most enduring couples, but you'd think they'd need a break by now. After all, at the time of this writing, the pair has been married for nearly three decades and worked together even longer. Scialfa has been part of Springsteen's band since his 1984 Born in the USA tour and has lent her voice to his recordings as far back as 1987's Tunnel of Love. In turn, Springsteen co-produced his wife's 1993 solo album Rumble Doll, as well as lent his talents (which apparently also include photography) to her other projects. Their lives are so intertwined, it's hard to see how they could possibly untangle them.

All in all, Scialfa and Springsteen have the kind of marriage that transforms cynics into believers (putting Zach Braff's 2004 Jersey-centric rom-com to shame). That doesn't mean it's not without its quirks, which, if we're being totally honest, mostly relate to how serendipitous they truly are.

Bruce Springsteen didn't go far for love

Bruce Springsteen may have been born to run, but it took coming back to the Garden State to find love. According to Rolling Stone, the Boss and his wife grew up just 10 miles apart. Patti Scialfa was from the town of Deal, which is a stone's throw from the Stone Pony, the now-legendary Asbury Park venue where the couple first locked eyes.

In a New Jersey Monthly profile, Scialfa revealed that when they first crossed paths in 1983, she was living in New York City and working as a waitress, but she had a habit of returning to her childhood home on the weekends to spend time with family and play gigs at the Stone Pony with Bobby Bandiera, long before he was Bon Jovi's former touring guitarist (the Jersey Turnpike may have 365 exits, but it's shockingly small). On one particular night, her performance impressed a certain audience member — Bruce Springsteen.

"I remember getting off the stage one night, and I was talking to a few of my friends, and I saw this group of people slowly swarm up to me, like a tide rising toward me, coming up looking over my shoulder. I was getting really self-conscious," she said. "And finally, I turn around, and Bruce is standing there. He was such a magnet, he had all of these people around him."

Springsteen complimented her singing, and they formed a fast friendship.

Patti Scialfa tried to audition for Bruce Springsteen's band in high school

Patti Scialfa and Bruce Springsteen had a brief run-in years before they officially met. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Scialfa — who joined her first band at age 14 — revealed that she originally attempted to audition for the Boss' band when she was in high school.

Scialfa was 15 years old when she saw an ad in the Asbury Park Press from a touring band who were looking for members that were willing to travel. She called the number, and Springsteen, who was already something of a local legend, answered the phone. He was kind with his rejection, admitting the teenager was "a little young" and should probably "stay in school." "He was very sweet on the phone," Scialfa told Rolling Stone, adding, "I was so relieved."

Scialfa did end up taking his advice. She eventually graduated and went to the University of Miami, where she studied in their prestigious music program. She was the only woman in the jazz department and ultimately transferred to NYU in 1974. By the end of the decade, Scialfa was singing with Bobby Bandiera's band Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, who ended up landing high-profile gigs with acts like The Rolling Stones and New York Dolls' David Johansen. In 1984, it all came full circle when Scialfa was invited to audition for Springsteen's band, which was about to set off on the Born in the USA tour.

Patti Scialfa joined Bruce Springsteen's band three days before they went on tour

The sheer extent of Patti Scialfa's musicianship only shows when you consider the fact that her future husband gave her next to no warning that she would be joining his band on tour for the first time. According to Rolling Stone, the Boss had his reservations about inviting Scialfa to join the E Street Band on his Born in the USA tour in 1984. First of all, she's a woman, and up until that point, E Street was 100% dudes. He reportedly admitted to her that "he wasn't sure how [it] would work," but invited her anyway — just three days before the tour began.

At the time, Scialfa reportedly rushed to "frantically" learn the band's entire catalog, a Herculean feat that she actually accomplished, but on opening night, Springsteen worried that she clashed with the band's rugged, working class image. "I was wearing some kind of pastel kind of ribbony top," she told Rolling Stone, "and Bruce goes, 'Maybe you should wear something not as pretty.' I tease him about it now. I'm surprised he didn't ask me to get a haircut."

Springsteen ended up lending her one of his own t-shirts emblazoned with the words "Broadway Motors." It was an adjustment, but eventually the pair found their rhythm, both figuratively and literally.

Was Patti Scialfa the reason for Bruce Springsteen's divorce?

The year following Patti Scialfa's first audition, Bruce Springsteen married actress Julianne Phillips, who he met on the Born in the USA. tour. In an interview with Rolling Stone, the "Glory Days" singer revealed that their relationship was "tough" and he "didn't really know how to be a husband" at the time, but their split might have had a little something to do with Scialfa.

In that same interview, Springsteen admitted that he "got together" with Scialfa on their Tunnel of Love Express tour in 1988. According to People, that's around the time he started mulling over the prospect of divorcing Phillips; they even spent their third wedding anniversary apart. When the U.S. portion of Springsteen's tour ended in New York, he didn't go back to either of his homes, though his Manhattan townhouse was unarguably right there. Instead, he stayed in a hotel with his band, presumably not wearing the wedding ring he allegedly hadn't been wearing for a minute.

Of course, the press definitely noticed that Springsteen was spending a lot of time with Scialfa during this clearly difficult spot in his marriage. According to People, he was caught "nuzzling" the singer in his underwear on "the balcony of the Rome Hilton" at the start of the band's European tour. According to Rolling Stone, "after Phillips saw tabloid photos of Scialfa and Springsteen together, she filed for divorce."

The Jersey girl and guy actually left the Garden State

Bruce Springsteen and his wife are such an iconic part of New Jersey culture that it's hard to imagine either of them leaving, much less to raise children in Hollywood, the veritable antithesis of the Garden State. Yet they did anyway, which was considered a betrayal to their hometown fans, according to Rolling Stone.

It all started when the Boss returned from his Tunnel of Love tour — fresh off the heels of divorce — and felt lost. He claimed he "just kind of spun off," and spent a year living "in a lot of fear," making "life generally unpleasant." Things finally hit a breaking point, and the "Born to Run" singer and his wife agreed to run to Springsteen's home on the left coast. As it turns out, shedding their Jersey roots did the trick, and the pair ended up staying long enough to start their family.

"I'd come out here three, four months out of the year. I always remember feeling just a little lighter, like I was carrying less," he told Rolling Stone, adding, "So Patti and I came out here, and things started to get better. And then the baby came along, and that was fantastic. That was just the greatest thing."

Of course, you can't keep the Boss out of Jersey for too long. In 2016, Scialfa told New Jersey Monthly that they're still living in Rumson and almost never go back to their home in LA.

Bruce Springsteen was born to run, but Patti Scialfa wouldn't let him

Bruce Springsteen's relationship with Patti Scialfa was different than the relationships he had in his past. She helped the singer ditch his bad habits by refusing to indulge him. In a 1992 interview with Rolling Stone, the Boss admitted that he had a knack for self-isolation. After all, he was the one who said "baby, we were born to run" — and that was true, in more ways than most fans actually knew. The singer claimed that by the time he started seeing Scialfa, he had become "a master manipulator" and always found a way of "moving off, moving away, moving back and creating distance." In his words, he "avoided closeness," but Scialfa was having none of it.

"She had a very sure eye for all of my bulls**t," he told Rolling Stone. "She recognized it. She was able to call me on it ... when I got back to New York after the Amnesty tour in '88, I was kind of wandering and lost, and it was Patti's patience and her understanding that got me through. She's a real friend, and we have a real great friendship."

With Scialfa's support, the artist finally entered therapy, which he claimed was "the best thing [he] did."

Bruce Springsteen was terrified to love

For someone who so boldly sang about riding down a "tunnel of love," Bruce Springsteen was sure afraid of it. In fact, the star basically likened love to a "world of fear"– but Patti Scialfa and their children were worth it. In an interview with Rolling Stone, the "Dancing in the Dark" singer revealed, "My specialty was keeping my distance so that if I lost something, it wouldn't hurt that much." But eventually, he just started to realize he was "never going to have anything" if he lived like that. This was a major, shocking revelation that came when Scialfa delivered their first child.

"I've played onstage for hundreds of thousands of people, and I've felt my own spirit really rise some nights. But when he came out, I had this feeling of a kind of love that I hadn't experienced before," he said. "And the minute I felt it, it was terrifying. It was like 'Wow, I see. This love is here to be had and to be felt and experienced? To everybody, on a daily basis?'"

Springsteen eventually learned to live with the fear and open his heart completely. He told Rolling Stone, "To love something so much, as much as I love Patti and my kids, you've got to be able to accept and live with that world of fear, that world of doubt, of the future. And you've got to give it all today and not hold back." 

Bruce Springsteen views his arguments with Patti Scialfa as a good thing

Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa may be one of rock's most enduring couples — and so madly in love that they still pack on the PDA after all these years — but that doesn't mean their marriage is always smooth sailing. In Springsteen's memoir Born to Run, the musician admitted that they fought quite a bit in the early days of their relationship, but this may actually be the secret to their long-lasting union.

In the book, Springsteen was open about his annoying habit of being passive aggressive. It was something that reportedly damaged his past relationships, but Scialfa's fighting style forced him to lay everything out in the open. "Patti and I fought a lot, which was a good thing," he wrote, adding, "I'd never argued much in most of my other relationships and it had proven detrimental." 

Considering their marriage has lasted nearly three decades, as of this writing, of course there's going to be a fight here and there.

Patti Scialfa is tired of living in her husband's shadow

Patti Scialfa is best known for backing up her husband in the E Street Band, but the artist is talented in her own right. Even the Boss is willing to admit that her skills don't really shine through to their full extent in the role that made her famous. "Patti has only been able to use a small portion of her talent onstage with the E Street Band," her husband told Rolling Stone in 2004, adding, "She's always been a beautiful songwriter."

Though Scialfa built her career around her husband, something she presumably enjoys or she wouldn't still be doing it, she's less thrilled to talk about it. In fact, she told The Guardian that she thinks journalists "purposely" ask her questions about Springsteen to "devalue her," which is a widespread problem women have in the entertainment industry. If anyone needed proof, just look at Jennifer Aniston. Tabloids still fixate on her divorce from Brad Pitt nearly 15 years after the fact — 15 years! Aniston deserves better, and so does Scialfa.

"I always feel it's the left-over cultural misogyny seeping in," Scialfa told The Guardian of her Springsteen-slanted media coverage. After all,et's not forget that her solo album Rumble Doll was hailed by Rolling Stone as the second-best "Springsteen Album (Not Made by Bruce)," though you'd never know it by reading the rest of her media coverage.

They're both Rock and Roll Hall of Famers

Next to Bon Jovi, the gripping argument about Taylor Ham vs. Pork Roll, or that pungent smell on the turnpike near Newark Airport, Bruce Springsteen embodies everything that is New Jersey. Of course, he's in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Snooki and her Jersey Shore cast mates have been cuffed for less egregious crimes than excluding the Boss from the history books. In 1999, the star was inducted by U2's Bono, and it only took his wife 15 years to catch up.

Patti Scialfa is, indeed, one of the few women who've been inducted into the Hall of Fame. According to NPR, in 34 years, the organization has inducted "69 women out of 888 inductees." In other words, "women make up less than 8%" of those inducted, and it's not because they're not making history. Scialfa took her rightful place on the throne in 2014 with the rest of her E Street band members. All 10 of them were inducted by the Jersey boy himself.

"Patti, I love you, thank you for your beautiful voice, you changed my band and my life. Thank you for our beautiful children," Springsteen said during the induction speech (via Rolling Stone).

Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa gross out their kids with PDA

For someone with 20 albums on the Billboard 200 and a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Bruce Springsteen's life is shockingly normal. The weirdest thing about it may be how deeply in love he is with Patti Scialfa. Let's be real: we've all heard the stories of rock stars cheating on their spouses while they're on tour. Would hair metal even exist if that wasn't the case? Of course, that's probably harder if you happen to be on tour with your wife, but it doesn't seem like that's even a thought in Springsteen's mind.

According to Rolling Stone, the rock legends live with their three children "in a nineteenth-century farmhouse in Rumson, N.J.," sheltered from New York City by about an hour's drive. They are regularly spotted at the grocery store, the dry cleaners, and the diner (which is, by all accounts, one of Jersey's most sacred establishments, says anyone who's ever tried disco fries). They're even so deliriously in love that they gross out their kids by kissing in the kitchen.

"They say, 'Please don't do that in front of us,'" Scialfa told Rolling Stone, adding, "I said, 'Hey, you're going to be happy one day when you look back and know your parents really loved each other.'" In short: Springsteen and Scialfa may be the most normal couple to ever have a multi-platinum certified album, although that's admittedly a very small club.