Bruce Springsteen Reunites the Band on ‘The Rising’ 20 Years Ago

When Bruce Springsteen disbanded the E Street Band in late 1989, more than five years had passed since their previous album. 1987 saw the release of the bandleader’s self-reflective album, Tunnel of Love. However, only a few members of his long-standing group accompanied him on the album. Even fewer people assisted with his doomed pair of albums from 1992, Human Touch and Lucky Town. By 1995, however, everyone was back in the studio recording new songs for a Greatest Hits album. Within four years, Springsteen and the E Street Band embarked on the Reunion Tour, performing over 130 concerts over the course of 15 months. The performance was documented on the 2001 album Live in New York City, which outsold Springsteen’s 1995 solo album The Ghost of Tom Joad, his only album since the 1992 duo.

So, when it came time to record his first album with the E Street Band since 1984’s commercial phenomenon, Bruce Springsteen chose to revisit the band. Springsteen, who was born in the United States, had long since returned to a familiar and comfortable rhythm with the group. The recording sessions for a new album began in March 2001, nine months after the tour concluded, but the events of September 11 altered both the course of history and the direction of the new music. Listen to “The Rising” by Bruce Springsteen.

The album, eventually titled The Rising, was released on July 30, 2002. Its 15 songs originated from a brief, two-month stay at Atlanta’s Southern Tracks Recording Studio at the beginning of the year with producer Brendan O’Brien, who had never worked with Springsteen and the E Street Band before. His presence had some effect on the normally meticulous bandleader, but so did the relevance of the material.

Even though nearly half of the songs were written before September 11, 2001, The Rising has become synonymous with that day. From “Lonesome Day” to “World’s Apart” to “You’re Missing,” the album was saturated with themes of loss and heartbreak and the struggle to move on. Even songs written before the tragedy, such as “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” and “Counting on a Miracle,” and one dating back to 1994, took on new significance. However, The Rising is not a sad or defeatist album. The E Street Band sounds not only revitalized but also empowered in this environment. There is an ache in some of these songs, especially in “You’re Missing” and “My City in Ruins,” where Springsteen’s sympathetic voice is prominent. However, songs such as “Mary’s Place” and the album’s title track demonstrate that their communal spirit has not diminished significantly since their last recording session.

“My City of Ruins” by Bruce Springsteen is worth hearing. The Rising is primarily an album about 9/11. However, it is also about reuniting the old band. And deciding how to reconcile troubled pasts with uncertain futures. These themes are comparable. “Can’t see nothing in front of me / Can’t see nothing coming up behind,” Springsteen sings in “The Rising” before launching into one of his career’s most memorable choruses. The Rising occurred at the ideal time, but this was deliberate. In contrast to the misinterpreted patriotism of “Born in the U.S.A.,” The Rising is filled with a sense of national pride. It exists as an undercurrent in songs like “Lonesome Day” and “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” that offer hope in the aftermath of tragedy, as well as in “The Rising’s” gospel-like resilience.

The Rising was Springsteen’s first studio album to debut at No. 1 since Tunnel of Love. It signified his return, as well as that of the E Street Band. The Ghost of Tom Joad was the first Springsteen album since 1973’s The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle to miss the Top 10. Springsteen and the group embarked on a three-leg, 14-month tour shortly after the album’s release, which included appearances on Saturday Night Live and Late Night With David Letterman. Eventually, The Rising went double platinum.

Years later, the album remains one of Springsteen’s most straightforward. And despite its origins in loose ends, it is one of his most thematic works. It didn’t begin that way, but after Springsteen and the E Street Band’s triumphant return to the stage a few years earlier, pieces fell into place and took on a new, more universal meaning in the wake of tragedy. The Rising began with one narrative but concluded with another. As a result, it became the definitive musical expression of the fall and rise of the human spirit.

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