Best known as a guitarist from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, a key player on Neil Young’s iconic album After the Gold Rush and an occasional member of Crazy Horse and Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band, Nils Lofgren is one of the all-time greatest sidemen in rock’n’roll history. Not to mention the all-time greatest trampolinist in rock’n’roll history. He’s also a celebrated solo performer in his own right, and his latest round of live commitments – including shows around the UK – sees him celebrate 50 years of professional touring.
On the eve of hitting the road, Lofgren chatted to us about the songs that made him as a young Swedish-Italian-American growing up in the suburbs of Washington D.C. in the 1950s and 60s, and how they set him on a path to putting down the accordion – which he played classically between the ages of 6 and 15 – and picking up the guitar, before going on to eventually perform with rock and roll hall of famers galore. Not to mention become a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame himself when the E Street Band were inducted in 2014.
“I’m 66 now and I still feel like I’m trying to grow up,” Lofgren comments wistfully, as he reminisces on his musical youth.
The Beatles – I Want to Hold Your Hand
Nils Lofgren: One song that comes to mind that was very dramatic was of course the famous Beatles – who have to me the greatest body of recorded music – and their famous Ed Sullivan show appearance where they did the song ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’. Because I’d been studying classical music and the great classics of all time and performing them and getting inside them as an accordion player, I had a keen sense of melody, and it just was startling and very powerful that song.
Still to this day when I hear I Want to Hold Your Hand it’s like an otherworldly thing
That raw harmony stuff that was very musical and beautiful, mixed with the soul of just two guitars, the rhythm section and very powerful singers. Still to this day when I hear it it’s like an otherworldly thing. And then the bridge – it reminded me of all the great old Broadway songs. It just had such a musicality, a shift of gears that led you right back into the main thing. It kind of took my sense of melody from the great songs like ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ and ‘If I Loved You’ from Carousel and just put this startling rock element and soul into that. So that was an early one.