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Nils Lofgren

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Nils Lofgren
Nils Lofgren playing in 2019
Nils Lofgren playing in 2019
Background information
Birth nameNils Hilmer Lofgren
Born (1951-06-21) June 21, 1951 (age 73)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
GenresRoots rock, heartland rock, blues rock, hard rock
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
Instrument(s)Vocals, guitar, keyboards, accordion, pedal steel guitar, banjo
Years active1965–present
LabelsA&M, Columbia, MCA, Rykodisc, Capitol, Vision Music, Pure Records; Fantasy
Member ofE Street Band, Crazy Horse

Nils Hilmer Lofgren (born June 21, 1951)[1] is an American rock musician, recording artist, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. Along with his work as a solo artist, he has been a member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band since 1984, a member of Crazy Horse, and founder/frontman of the band Grin. Lofgren was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the E Street Band in 2014.


Early life and career[edit]

Lofgren was born in Chicago, Illinois, United States,[2] to an Italian mother and a Swedish father. When he was a young child, the family moved to the Washington, D.C., suburb of Bethesda, Maryland.[3] Lofgren's first instrument was classical accordion, beginning at age five,[4] which he studied seriously for ten years.[3] After studying classical music and jazz, throughout his youth, Lofgren switched his emphasis to rock music, and focused on the piano and the guitar.[4]

Lofgren attended his local public high school, Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland, although he did not graduate, dropping out in 1968 at age 17 to pursue a career in music.[5] He had been a competitive gymnast in high school, a skill that was used on stage later in his performing career and reflected in the name of his 1985 album, Flip.[6]


In 1968, Lofgren formed the band Grin with bassist, later turned major record label executive George Daly (then replaced by Bob Gordon), and drummer Bob Berberich, former players in the DC band The Hangmen.[7] The group played in venues throughout the Washington, D.C., area.

Lofgren met Neil Young while Young was performing at the Georgetown club The Cellar Door, and began a long association. Young invited Lofgren to come to California and the Grin trio (Lofgren, Daly and Berberich) drove out west and lived for some months at a home Neil Young rented in Laurel Canyon. Lofgren would eventually use his album credits from working with Young to land Grin a record deal in 1971.

Daly left the band early on to become a Columbia Records A&R Executive and was replaced by bassist Bob Gordon, who remained through the release of four critically acclaimed albums[8] of catchy hard rock from 1971 to 1974, with guitar as Lofgren's primary instrument. The single "White Lies" got heavy airplay on Washington, D.C.-area radio. Lofgren wrote the majority of the group's songs, and often shared vocal duties with other members of the band (primarily drummer Bob Berberich). After the second album he added brother Tom Lofgren as a rhythm guitarist. Grin failed to hit the big time, and were released by their record company.[3]

Neil Young and Crazy Horse[edit]

Lofgren joined Neil Young at age 19 to play piano and guitar on the album After the Gold Rush.[3] Lofgren maintained his musical relationship with Young, appearing as a part of the Santa Monica Flyers on Young's Tonight's the Night album and tour, and again on the Trans album and tour.[2] He has also been a recurring member of Crazy Horse (1970–1971; 2018–present), appearing on their 1971 LP and contributing songs to their catalogue. In 2018, Lofgren re-joined Crazy Horse and along with the band performed on Young's 2019 album Colorado and 2021's Barn.

In 2023, Neil Young along with the members of Crazy Horse released the album All Roads Lead Home under the band name Molina, Talbot, Lofgren and Young.[9]

Solo career[edit]

After Grin disbanded in 1974, Lofgren released his self-titled debut solo album which was a success with critics; a 1975 Rolling Stone review by Jon Landau labeled it one of the finest rock albums of the year, and NME ranked it fifth on its list of albums of the year.[10] Subsequent albums did not always garner critical favor,[11] although Cry Tough was voted number 10 in the 1976 NME Album round up;[12] I Came to Dance in particular received a scathing review in the New Rolling Stone Record Guide.[13] He achieved progressive rock radio hits in the mid-1970s with "Back It Up", "Keith Don't Go" and "I Came to Dance". His song "Bullets Fever", about the 1978 NBA champion Washington Bullets, would become a favorite in the Washington area.[3] Throughout the 1970s, Lofgren released solo albums and toured extensively with a backing band that usually included brother Tom on rhythm guitar. Lofgren's concerts displayed his reputation for theatrics, such as playing guitar while doing flips on a trampoline.[2]

In 1971, he appeared on stage on the Roy Buchanan Special, PBS TV, with Bill Graham. In 1973, he appeared with Grin on NBC on Midnight Special, performing three songs live. In 1978, he wrote and sang the "Nobody Bothers Me" theme for a D.C. Jhoon Rhee Tae Kwon Do advertisement, and also appeared in the ill-received Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie. Lofgren appeared on Late Night with David Letterman, to promote his 1985 solo release Flip. Lofgren is credited on two of Lou Gramm's (of Foreigner) solo albums: Ready or Not released in 1987 (Lofgren listed as lead guitarist) and Long Hard Look released in 1989 (Lofgren listed as one of the guitarists). In 1987, he contributed the television show theme arrangement for Hunter. In 1993 he contributed to The Simpsons, with two Christmas jingles with Bart. In 1995, he appeared on a PBS tribute to the Beatles along with Dr. John. From 1991 to 1995, he was the CableAce Awards musical director and composer.

Nils Lofgren performing at the Beacon Theatre Benefit For Arthur Lee
Nils Lofgren playing the accordion Birmingham Town Hall 16 May 2018

Lofgren continues to record and to tour as a solo act, with Patti Scialfa, with Neil Young, and as a two-time member of Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band. Many of the people he worked with on those tours appeared on his 1991 album, Silver Lining. During the 2000s he got his own "Nils Lofgren Day" in Montgomery County, Maryland (August 25). In 2006 Lofgren released Sacred Weapon, featuring guest appearances by David Crosby, Graham Nash, Willie Nelson and Martin Sexton. In 2006 he recorded a live DVD Nils Lofgren & Friends: Acoustic Live at the Legendary Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria, Virginia.

On June 23, 2006, Lofgren performed at a benefit concert for Arthur Lee at New York's Beacon Theatre, along with Robert Plant, Ian Hunter, Yo La Tengo and Garland Jeffreys. In 2007, he appeared playing guitar as part of Jerry Lee Lewis' backing band for Lewis' Last Man Standing Live concert DVD. He released The Loner – Nils Sings Neil, an album of acoustic covers of Neil Young songs, in 2008.

In September 2008, Lofgren had hip replacement surgery for both of his hips as a result of years of playing basketball, performing back flips on stage, and age.[14]

In August 2014, a box set, Face the Music, was released on the Fantasy label. The career-spanning retrospective contains nine CDs and a DVD covering 45 years.

The creation of Lofgren's 2015 live album UK 2015 Face the Music Tour was inspired by his wife Amy commenting that his recent live shows were the best she had seen him perform, as well as fans wanting to have a recording of the show they had just seen.[15]

In December 2018, PBS NewsHour aired a 10-minute career retrospective Nils Lofgren: 50 years of 'just being a guy in the band'.[16]

Lofgren was a guest on a "Private Lives" one-hour radio special on East London Radio in the UK in October 2020. This series is shared across radio stations online and on FM/DAB, covering much of the UK.[17]

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band[edit]

Print ad for Southside Johnny rock concert featuring Lofgren as guest

In 1984, he joined Bruce Springsteen's backing band, the E Street Band,[2] as the replacement for Steven Van Zandt on guitar and vocals, in time for Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. Tour. Lofgren would appear on his first Springsteen album with 1987's Tunnel of Love and its Tunnel of Love Express and Human Rights Now! supporting tours. In 1989 Springsteen broke up the E Street Band and Lofgren returned to his solo work.

In 1995, the E Street Band, featuring both Lofgren and Van Zandt, recorded new songs for Springsteen's Greatest Hits album, though nothing else came from this reunion. In 1999, Springsteen, minus the E Street Band, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The E Street Band would finally be inducted fifteen years later in 2014. Despite not being inducted in 1999 with Springsteen, the E Street Band (again with Lofgren and Van Zandt) performed with Springsteen for the first time since 1988 at the induction ceremony. This led to a successful Reunion Tour from 1999 to 2000 and a lineup featuring both Lofgren and Van Zandt as full-time members. The reunion tour resulted in 2002's album,The Rising, the first album featuring the E Street Band since 1988, and another tour in 2002 and 2003. Springsteen then worked on other projects and toured without the E Street Band's involvement until 2007's Magic album and tour of 2007/2008. This tour was followed by 2009's Working on a Dream album and tour. In 2012, Springsteen released Wrecking Ball, which featured some of the E Street Band members; Lofgren did not appear, though he did perform with the band on the album's supporting tour. 2014 saw the release of the album High Hopes along with another tour. In 2016, Springsteen celebrated the 35th anniversary of his album The River, with a tour in support of The Ties That Bind: The River Collection box set.[15] In 2020, Springsteen released his album Letter to You, which featured the E Street Band; a supporting tour was delayed until 2023 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[18] Lofgren tested positive for COVID-19, forcing him to miss one show on the tour in February 2023. It was the first show Lofgren had missed since joining the band in 1984.[19]

Other work[edit]

The late novelist Clive Cussler lived close to Lofgren's Arizona home, and collaborated on a song with him titled "What Ever Happened to Muscatel?"[20]

On August 17, 2017, Lofgren was inducted into the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame.[21]

In May 2018, Lofgren replaced Frank Sampedro in Crazy Horse for their reunion concerts with Neil Young.

On January 29, 2022, Lofgren pulled his music from Spotify, after Neil Young and Joni Mitchell had done the same. This was in response to their belief that COVID-19 misinformation was spread by the streaming service's The Joe Rogan Experience.[22]

Musical equipment[edit]

Lofgren primarily uses a variety of Fender guitars and amplifiers.[23][24]


During performances of the song "The River" on The E Street Band's Working on a Dream Tour, Lofgren would use a custom Fender Stratocaster double-neck guitar, with one 12-string neck, and one standard six. The 12 string was tuned B-G-Bb-F-D-Eb, and the six string A-G#-Bb-Bb-Bb-F#.[citation needed]


  • Barber Burn Unit overdrive
  • Strymon Brigadier dBucket Delay
  • TC Electronic ND-1 Nova Delay


  • Fuchs 4 Aces 112 combo [25]

With The E Street Band.




Grin discography[edit]

Solo discography[edit]

Year Album Peak chart positions
US Ind
1975 Nils Lofgren (A&M) 141
Back It Up!! (Live) (A&M)
1976 Cry Tough (A&M) 96 57[34] 12 22 8 32
1977 I Came to Dance (A&M) 81[35] 14 30 36
Night After Night (Live) (A&M) 75[36] 23 38 44
1979 Nils (A&M) 73 85[37] 21 50 35 54
1981 Night Fades Away (Backstreet/MCA) 92 22 50 99
Best of Nils Lofgren (A&M)
1982 A Rhythm Romance (A&M) 100
1983 Wonderland (Backstreet/MCA) 31 206
1985 Flip (CBS) 12 36 150
1986 Code of the Road (Live) (Towerbell/CBS) 86
1991 Silver Lining (Rykodisc) 122 62 61 153
1992 Crooked Line (Rykodisc)
1993 Live on the Test (Windsong) (UK-only release)
1994 Every Breath (Soundtrack) (Crisis)
1995 Damaged Goods (Pure)
1997 Acoustic Live (Vision)
2001 Breakaway Angel (Vision)
2002 Tuff Stuff: The Best of the All-Madden Team Band (Vision)
2003 Nils Lofgren Band Live (Vision)
2006 Sacred Weapon (Vision)
2008 The Loner – Nils Sings Neil (Vision)
2011 Old School (MvD) 60
2014 Face the Music (box set) (Fantasy)
2015 UK 2015 Face the Music Tour (Cattle Track Road)
2019 Blue with Lou (Cattle Track Road) 33
2020 Weathered (Live) (Cattle Track Road)
2023 Mountains (Cattle Track Road) 85
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released

With Crazy Horse[edit]

  • Crazy Horse (1971)
  • All Roads Lead Home (2023) (released under the name Molina, Talbot, Lofgren and Young)

With Neil Young[edit]

With Jerry Williams[edit]

  • Jerry Williams (Spindizzy) (1972) – Lofgren/Grin played on three songs on the album; additionally, they played on the b-side of the single, "Crazy 'Bout You Baby"

With Lou Reed (as co-writer)[edit]

With Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band[edit]

With Lou Gramm[edit]


  1. ^ Lofgren, Nils (2007). "Nils Lofgren, Singer, songwriter". Nils Lofgren's official website. Archived from the original on February 20, 2015. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 1506/7. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  3. ^ a b c d e J. Freedom du Lac (October 8, 2008). "Six Questions (And Then Some) For ... Nils Lofgren". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 11, 2008.
  4. ^ a b Huey, Steve (2009). "Nils Lofgren Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved March 14, 2009.
  5. ^ Peterson, Sammy. "WJ's most famous dropout". Wjpitch.com.
  6. ^ "Nils Lofgren Interview". Djnoble.demon.co.uk. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved February 14, 2011.
  7. ^ "The Hangmen". Garagehangover.com. Retrieved March 29, 2012.
  8. ^ Kinsler, Robert (January 28, 2009). "Nils Lofgren marks 25 years with Springsteen". Orange County Register. Retrieved March 14, 2009.
  9. ^ Gallucci, Michael (March 28, 2023). "Molina, Talbot, Lofgren and Young, 'All Roads Lead Home': Album Review". Ultimate Guitar. Retrieved March 28, 2023.
  10. ^ "Rocklist.net...NME End of Year Lists 1975". Rocklistmusic.co.uk. May 9, 1992. Retrieved February 14, 2011.
  11. ^ Viglione, Joe. Nils Lofgren at AllMusic
  12. ^ "Rocklist.net...NME End of Year Lists 1976". Rocklistmusic.co.uk. May 9, 1992. Retrieved February 14, 2011.
  13. ^ Marsh, Dave; Swenson, John (1983). New Rolling Stone Record Guide, The. New York, NY: Random House/Rolling Stone Press. p. 302. ISBN 0-394-72107-1.
  14. ^ "Nils Lofgren on John Madden, the Cardinals and a brand new set of hips..." Billboard. January 2009. Archived from the original on February 4, 2009. Retrieved January 24, 2009.
  15. ^ a b Moser, John J. (February 8, 2016). "Nils Lofgren on playing with Springsteen: 'Every night I learn stuff and grow'". The Morning Call. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  16. ^ "Nils Lofgren on PBS NewsHour". Pbs.org. December 15, 2018.
  17. ^ "Mixcloud". Mixcloud.com. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  18. ^ "Bruce Springsteen and the e Street Band Announce 2023 International Tour". July 5, 2022.
  19. ^ @backstreetsmag (February 13, 2023). "We're sending out Get Well wishes to #SoozieTyrell @nilslofgren and @StevieVanZandt" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  20. ^ "Nils Lofgren Merchandise". Nilslofgren.com. Archived from the original on January 1, 2011. Retrieved February 14, 2011.
  21. ^ "Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony 2017". Azcentral.com. Retrieved October 9, 2017.
  22. ^ Kreps, Daniel (January 30, 2022). "Nils Lofgren Pulls Music From Spotify in Solidarity With Neil Young". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 30, 2022.
  23. ^ Nils Lofgren Guitar Rig Gear and Equipment Archived April 30, 2009, at the Wayback Machine Uberproaudio.com Retrieved May 16, 2009
  24. ^ Fender artist – Nils Lofgren / Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band Archived July 10, 2010, at the Wayback Machine fender.com Retrieved 2010-07-19
  25. ^ Nils Lofgren: Back on the Horse Premierguitar.com Retrieved November 26, 2019
  26. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 180. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  27. ^ "Bubbling Down Under Week Commencing May 13, 1991". Retrieved June 21, 2022.
  28. ^ "Suche - Offizielle Deutsche Charts". Offiziellecharts.de. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
  29. ^ "Dutch Charts - dutchcharts.nl". dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
  30. ^ "swedishcharts.com - Swedish Charts Portal". swedishcharts.com. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
  31. ^ "NILS LOFGREN | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Officialcharts.com. May 25, 1985. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
  32. ^ "Nils Lofgren". Billboard. Retrieved July 19, 2023.
  33. ^ "Nils Lofgren". Billboard. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
  34. ^ Canada, Library and Archives (July 17, 2013). "Image : RPM Weekly". Bac-lac.gc.ca. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
  35. ^ Canada, Library and Archives (July 17, 2013). "Image : RPM Weekly". Bac-lac.gc.ca. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
  36. ^ Canada, Library and Archives (July 17, 2013). "Image : RPM Weekly". Bac-lac.gc.ca. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
  37. ^ Canada, Library and Archives (July 17, 2013). "Image : RPM Weekly". Bac-lac.gc.ca. Retrieved December 29, 2020.

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