Bruce Springsteen Performs “Growin’ Up” & “Henry Boy” When He Was an Opening Act (1972)

You’ll be hear­ing the name of Green­wich Vil­lage folk scene god­fa­ther Dave Van Ronk in the com­ing days, what with the Coen broth­ers upcom­ing Inside Llewyn Davis, a fic­tion­al­ized take on Van Ronk’s life based on his 2005 posthu­mous mem­oir (with Eli­jah Wald), The May­or of Mac­Dou­gal Street. And while Van Ronk’s is a name well-known to stu­dents of the 60’s folk revival, he nev­er achieved the fame of pro­tégés like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. But there was anoth­er singer/songwriter and future super­star breez­ing through Van Ronk’s Vil­lage scene. I’m talk­ing about Bruce Spring­steen who, before he became an are­na rock sta­ple, opened solo for Van Ronk on acoustic gui­tar at Max’s Kansas City in 1972.

In the video above, watch Spring­steen play “Growin’ Up,” a song that appeared the next year on his debut album Greet­ings from Asbury Park, NJ. The album ver­sion of the song is the kind of rous­ing, anthemic fist-pumper Springsteen’s known for, but above, he strips it down to its essen­tials, and reveals that, like most every­thing he’s writ­ten, it’s a lyri­cal tour-de-force (which is prob­a­bly why Bowie record­ed a ver­sion). The 23-year-old Spring­steen also shows us that, band or no band, he was always a phe­nom­e­nal per­former. “Growin’ Up” is still a part of Springsteen’s set, no less anthemic, although the song takes on a much more nos­tal­gic air now that Spring­steen is six­ty-four. Below, watch a longer ver­sion of the clip, includ­ing MC Sam Hood’s intro­duc­tion and Bruce’s open­ing tune, “Hen­ry Boy.” If Van Ronk’s per­for­mance from that night made it on film, it hasn’t made it onto YouTube, but there are any num­ber of his inter­pre­ta­tions of old coun­try blues online.

Relat­ed Con­tent

Bruce Spring­steen Stumps/Sings for Oba­ma: A Free Six-Song Set

Heat Map­ping the Rise of Bruce Spring­steen: How the Boss Went Viral in a Pre-Inter­net Era

Bruce Springsteen’s Per­son­al Jour­ney Through Rock ‘n’ Roll (Slight­ly NSFW But Sim­ply Great)

Josh Jones is a writer, edi­tor, and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him @jdmagness

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Comments (4)
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  • This made my morn­ing. Thanks, Josh.

  • Josh Jones says:

    You’re wel­come!

  • Kelsey says:

    Love Bruce, thanks for post­ing!

  • I saw Spring­steen in Decem­ber of 2012 as he swung through South­ern Cal­i­for­nia on his last tour. I’d seen him numer­ous times pre­vi­ous­ly, though I was amazed at how, even in his 60’s, he is still able to play with ener­gy, enthu­si­asm and the per­sona that has made him such a leg­end. See­ing these clips of him Spring­steen per­form­ing so long ago, at the out­set of what we now know is suc­cess­ful career, one can see the stage pres­ence he exudes as a nat­u­ral­ly tal­ent­ed live per­former. With all of the back­ing musi­cians stripped away we can also observe not only Spring­steen’s crafts­man­ship as a song­writer but also his skills as a gui­tar play­er.

    I often find it inter­est­ing to revis­it the work of artists, film­mak­ers and musi­cians in their youth as it is always so reveal­ing.

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