Nils Lofgren

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Nils Lofgren
Nils Lofgren (46480129234).jpg
Nils Lofgren playing in 2019
Background information
Birth nameNils Hilmer Lofgren
Born (1951-06-21) June 21, 1951 (age 70)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Genres Roots rock, heartland rock, blues rock, hard rock
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, athlete
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, keyboards, accordion, pedal steel guitar, banjo
Years active1965–present
Labels A&M, Columbia, MCA, Rykodisc, Capitol, Vision Music, Pure Records; Fantasy
Associated acts E Street Band, Neil Young, Crazy Horse, Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, Patti Scialfa, Dire Straits, Grin

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 2019.



Early life and career

Lofgren was born in Chicago in 1951 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. [2] Lofgren's first instrument was classical accordion, beginning at age five, [3] which he studied seriously for ten years. [2] After studying classical music and jazz, throughout his youth, Lofgren switched his emphasis to rock music, and focused on the piano and the guitar. [3]

Lofgren 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. [4]

By 1968, Lofgren had formed the band Grin with bassist George Daly (later replaced by Bob Gordon), and drummer Bob Berberich, former players in the DC band The Hangmen. [5] The group played in venues throughout the Washington, D.C., area.

During this time, 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 joined Young's band at age 19, playing piano and guitar on the album After the Gold Rush . [2] Lofgren maintained a close musical relationship with Young, appearing on his Tonight's the Night album and tour among others. He has also been a recurring member of Crazy Horse (1970–1971; 1973; 2018–present), appearing on their 1971 LP and contributing songs to their catalogue.


Lofgren used the Neil Young album credits 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 [6] 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. [2]

Solo career, part I

Grin disbanded in 1974. Lofgren's eponymous debut solo album 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. [7] Subsequent albums did not always garner critical favor, [8] although Cry Tough was voted number 10 in the 1976 NME Album round up; [9] I Came to Dance in particular received a scathing review in the New Rolling Stone Record Guide . [10] 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. [2] 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.

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 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 TV 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.

E Street Band

Print ad for Southside Johnny rock concert featuring Lofgren as guest WMMS Presents Southside Johnny - 1976 print ad.jpg
Print ad for Southside Johnny rock concert featuring Lofgren as guest

In 1984, he joined Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band as the replacement for Steven Van Zandt on guitar and vocals, in time for Springsteen's massive Born in the U.S.A. Tour. Following the tour he appeared on Late Night with David Letterman , to promote his 1985 solo release Flip. The E Street Band toured again with Springsteen in 1988 on the Tunnel of Love Express and Human Rights Now!. In 1989 Springsteen broke up the E Street Band, but Lofgren and Van Zandt rejoined when Springsteen revived the band in 1999 for their Reunion Tour, followed by The Rising and another massive tour in 2002 and 2003, then again for the Magic album and world tour of 2007/2008, and in 2012–2013 for the Wrecking Ball Tour and in 2014 for the High Hopes Tour. In 2016, Lofgren put his own solo tour promoting his live album UK 2015 Face the Music Tour on hold to help Springsteen out on his The River Tour. [11]

Tours with Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band:

Solo career, part II

Nils Lofgren performing at the Beacon Theater Benefit For Arthur Lee Lofgren 6.23.06 Arthur Lee Benefit Beacon Theater.jpg
Nils Lofgren performing at the Beacon Theater Benefit For Arthur Lee
Nils Lofgren playing the accordion Birmingham Town Hall 16 May 2018 Nil Lofgren Birmingham Town Hall 16 May 2018.jpg
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 Theater, 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, "performance 'flips' on stage, and age." [12]

In August 2014, a box set, Face the Music, was released on the Fantasy label. The career-spanning retrospective contains nine CD's 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'd seen him do, as well as fans wanting to have a recording of the show they’d just seen. [11]

In December 2018 PBS NewsHour aired a 10-minute career retrospective Nils Lofgren: 50 years of ‘just being a guy in the band’. [13]

Lofgren was a guest on a "Private Lives" 1 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.

Other work

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?" [14]

On August 17, 2017 Lofgren was inducted into the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame. [15]

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

Material loss

Lofgren was among hundreds of artists whose material was destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire. [16]

Musical equipment

Crazy Horse


For the 2019 album, Colorado, Lofgren brought two guitars:



The E Street Band

Lofgren primarily uses a variety of Fender guitars and amplifiers. [18] [19]





Grin discography

Solo discography

YearAlbumPeak chart positions
US Ind
1975 Nils Lofgren (A&M)141
Back It Up!! (Live) (A&M)
1976 Cry Tough (A&M)9657 [27] 1222832
1977 I Came to Dance (A&M)81 [28] 143036
Night After Night (Live) (A&M)75 [29] 233844
1979 Nils (A&M)7385 [30] 21503554
1981Night Fades Away (Backstreet/MCA)92225099
Best of Nils Lofgren (A&M)
1982A Rhythm Romance (A&M)100
1983Wonderland (Backstreet/MCA)31206
1985 Flip (CBS)1236150
1986Code of the Road (Live) (Towerbell/CBS)86
1991Silver Lining (Rykodisc)6261153
1992Crooked Line (Rykodisc)
1993Live on the Test (Windsong) (UK-only release)
1994Every Breath (Soundtrack) (Crisis)
1995Damaged Goods (Pure)
1997Acoustic Live (Vision)
2001Breakaway Angel (Vision)
2002Tuff Stuff-The Best of the All-Madden Team Band (Vision)
2003Nils Lofgren Band Live (Vision)
2006Sacred Weapon (Vision)
2008The Loner – Nils Sings Neil (Vision)
2011Old School (MvD)60
2014Face the Music (Box set) (Fantasy)
2015UK 2015 Face the Music Tour (Cattle Track)
2019Blue With Lou (Cattle Track)33
2020Weathered (Live) (Cattle Track)
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released

With Crazy Horse

With Jerry Williams

With Neil Young

With Lou Reed (as co-writer)

With Lou Gramm

With Bruce Springsteen

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