Born Robert Clark Seger, May 6, 1945, in Ann Arbor, MI; son of Stewart (an in-house medic for the Ford Motor Company and former orchestra leader) and Charlotte (a domestic) Seger; married, 1967 (divorced, 1967); married Annette (Nita) Sinclair (an actress), November 8, 1987; children: Cole, Samantha Char. Addresses: Record company--Capitol Records, 1750 Vine St., Hollywood, CA 90028; or 1290 Avenue of the Americas, 35th floor, New York, NY 10104.
Bob Seger's unadorned, working-class songs and wistful, raspy vocal style reflect his Michigan roots and affection for rock and roll. Seger received national acclaim in 1976 with the album Night Moves, which was a sentimental journey back to his adolescent dating experiences. He had been touring and recording since 1963 and was already popular in his native Michigan when he met with long- awaited recognition. Between 1976 and 1984, Seger had 14 Top 40 singles in the United States and was dubbed the "Godfather" of no-frills rock music.
Seger has been credited with blazing a path for musicians like the Eagles, John Cougar Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, and Tom Petty, all of whom possessed a similar, straightforward style of rock music. People magazine's Carl Arrington described his music as "hard ... with grit, not glitter," and Seger told Newsweek in 1986: "Gritty guys like us will always be around, because we're the guys who work hardest and really care about what we do."
Seger was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on May 6, 1945, one of two sons of Stewart and Charlotte Seger. Stewart Seger, an in-house medic for the Ford Motor Company, led a 13- piece orchestra on weekends in the 1940s. He encouraged a preschool-aged Bob to learn to play the ukulele. By the time Seger had reached high school, he was playing the electric guitar and keyboards. He honed his musical skills in high school by performing at local parties in Ann Arbor in a three-piece band called the Decibels. Later, he was a member of bands called the Town Criers and the Omens. Seger's early influences included country musicians, whose songs were played on WLAC out of Nashville, and rhythm and blues artists, especially Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, Van Morrison, Otis Redding, James Brown, and Detroit's Mitch Ryder.
Seger's father deserted his wife and sons when Seger was ten years old, leaving Seger's mother with little in the way of financial prospects. As a result, Seger's music often reflects hard-life experiences--this is particularly evident on "The Ring," "The Lonely One," "Against the Wind," and "Turn the Page"--and is fueled by an empathy for human loss, a compassion for societal problems, and a love of simple pleasures. After watching his father struggle with alcoholism, Seger vowed to avoid drug use and to impart something significant through music with honest emotion.
In 1964, at the age of nineteen, Seger formed the band Last Heard with the organ player from Del Shannon's band; they recorded the singles "The Lonely One" and "East Side Story." "East Side Story" caught the ear of a Detroit clubowner named Ed (Punch) Andrews, who owned Hideout Records. By 1965 Andrews and Seger had raised enough money to release "East Side Story," which sold 50,000 copies in the Detroit area. The pair became partners and shared a solid business relationship that has endured for over three decades.
A year later, in 1966, Seger recorded the single "Heavy Music" on the national Cameo-Parkway label, selling 66,000 copies. "Heavy Music" nearly reached the Top 100 charts in 1967, just as the Cameo-Parkway label folded. The label's demise stunted the single's burgeoning popularity, but the pulsating tune illuminated Seger as a forceful vocalist.
In 1968 Seger assembled the Bob Seger System and released his debut album, Ramblin' Gamblin' Man on Capitol Records. It made the Top 20 list and included one of the first anti-Vietnam songs of the era--a powerful, hard-rock single titled "2 Plus 2=?." Capitol Records was skittish about releasing the song as a single at the time due to the nation's charged political atmosphere. Consequently, Seger and Andrews were skeptical about the label's commitment to Seger's career.
The next year, Seger released Noah, which did not fare as well as Ramblin' Gamblin' Man. In 1971 he quit playing music to go to college; he attended classes for only three weeks, then decided to leave school to pursue his musical aspirations. Later that same year, Seger teamed up with the duo Teegarden and Van Winkle--comprised of Dave Van Winkle and Skip Knape--to create the all-acoustic Brand New Morning and On Our Way, both of which met with limited acclaim. In 1972 Seger released Smokin' O.P.s on Ed Andrews's Palladium label (distributed nationally by Reprise). A strong album, it included the hit singles "If I Were a Carpenter," "Bo Diddley," and "Turn On Your Love Light." Seger released Back in '72 on Reprise Records in 1973, featuring the soulful single "Turn the Page." J. J. Cale and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section joined forces with Seger the next year for a few tracks on Seven. Traveling by car, Seger sometimes played as many as 265 one-nighters a year, often earning less than $7,000 in a good year.
When Beautiful Loser was released in 1975, Seger began to cement a formidable following. Beautiful Loser featured the rock and roll classic "Katmandu," as well as the winning title track, "Travelin' Man," and a searing rendition of "Nutbush City Limits," by R&B singer- songwriter Tina Turner. When Seger's two-disc Live Bullet album was released in 1976, the musicians who had played with Seger on Seven and Live Bullet--Chris Campbell, Drew Abbott, Charlie Allen Martin, Alto Reed, and Rick Manasa-- came to be known as the Silver Bullet Band. Live Bullet was recorded in Detroit's Cobo Hall, and the album broke through into the Top 40 album category. It remained on the charts for two years and five months and sold over a million copies.
Live Bullet was followed in 1976 by Night Moves, which reached the Top 10 album mark and included the singles "Rock and Roll Never Forgets," "The Fire Down Below," "Mary Lou," "Come to Poppa," "Main Street," and the title track. Bruce Springsteen's burgeoning popularity at this time--as well as the popularity of other rock and roll balladeers--was linked favorably to Seger, as these musicians extolled youthful yearnings and the virtues of the working class through rock.
Stranger in Town was released in 1978, with the wistful single "Still the Same" reaching the Top Five on the music charts, the up-tempo "Hollywood Nights" reaching the Number 12 slot, and the ballad "We've Got Tonight" reaching Number 13. The album was recorded with Eagles members Glenn Frey and Don Felder. Other notable singles on Stranger in Town include "Feel Like a Number" and "Old Time Rock and Roll," the latter immortalized by jockey- shorted rock wanna-be Tom Cruise in the motion picture Risky Business.
Seger's Against the Wind was released in 1980 with the Eagles on background vocals. It went to the top of the music album charts, with the title cut ranking Number Five. Seger contributed to the soundtrack of the film Urban Cowboy in 1980 with the singles "Nine Tonight" and "Tryin' to Live My Life without You." A second live, two- disc album, Nine Tonight, was released a year later.
Seger's 1982 release The Distance examines relationships, alienation, and isolation. Dave Marsh, in his book Fortunate Son, commented: "What's most amazing about The Distance is its ambition. This is Seger's first focused set of songs." Seger didn't release Like a Rock until four years later, in 1986, and the album reflects his maturity; he sings about hard-won wisdom and the lessons life had taught him over the course of 40 years. The Weather Girls provided back-up vocals for Like a Rock, and Seger shared the writing credits for the first time in his career--with former Grand Funk keyboardist Craig Frost. The single "Like a Rock" was used as the theme song for Chevy commercials from 1989 through 1994.
Seger released The Fire Inside in 1991, but the uneven album met with lukewarm response. The singer failed to tour because his mother's death coincided with the release of the album. Around the same time, Seger's wife, Nita, discovered she was pregnant. Their first child, a son, was born in 1991, and Seger felt a renewed sense of purpose as a result. His Greatest Hits album was released in 1994, featuring fourteen songs, and the album Lock and Load was slated for a 1995 release. In addition, the acclaimed 1994 film Forrest Gump included Seger's single "Against the Wind" in its soundtrack.
When Detroit Metro Times contributor Stewart Francke asked Seger what had sustained him during the long years before his breakthrough to a large audience, Seger answered: "Enough people kept saying we were good.... We knew we had something. When I got the right group of guys ... everybody saw the light at the end of the tunnel and they worked real hard."
by B. Kimberly Taylor
Bob Seger's Career
Learned to play the ukulele at the age of five; played electric guitar and keyboards in high school; performed at local parties in Ann Arbor, MI, in a three-piece band called the Decibels; later played in the Town Criers and the Omens; formed the band Last Heard, 1964, and recorded the singles "The Lonely One" and "East Side Story"; recorded single "Heavy Music" on the national Cameo- Parkway label, 1966; assembled the Bob Seger System, 1968, and released debut album Ramblin' Gamblin' Man on Capitol Records; Live Bullet double album released, 1976; Seger's bandmates--Chris Campbell (bass), Drew Abbott (guitar), Charlie Allen Martin (drums), Alto Reed (saxophone), and Rick Manasa (keyboards)--came to be known as the Silver Bullet Band. Contributed to Urban Cowboy film soundtrack, 1980; soundtrack to Risky Business included Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll"; soundtrack to Forrest Gump included "Against the Wind"; single "Like a Rock" used as the theme song for Chevy truck commercials, 1989-94.
Bob Seger's Awards
(With the Silver Bullet Band) Lifetime Achievement Award, Motor City Music Awards, 1995.
- Selective Works
- Ramblin' Gamblin' Man, Capitol, 1968.
- Noah, Capitol, 1969.
- Mongrel, Capitol, 1970.
- Brand New Morning, Capitol, 1971.
- Smokin' O.P.s, Reprise, 1972.
- Back in '72, Reprise, 1973.
- Seven, Reprise, 1974.
- Beautiful Loser, Capitol, 1975.
- Live Bullet, Capitol, 1976.
- Night Moves, Capitol, 1976.
- Stranger in Town, Capitol, 1978.
- Against the Wind, Capitol, 1980.
- Nine Tonight, Capitol, 1981.
- The Distance, Capitol, 1982.
- Like a Rock, Capitol, 1986.
- The Fire Inside, Capitol, 1991.
- Greatest Hits, Capitol, 1994.
- Lock and Load, 1995.
March 15, 2004: Seger was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Source: CNN.com, www.cnn.com, March 16, 2004.
- Marsh, Dave, Fortunate Son, Random House, 1985.
- Periodicals Billboard, October 1, 1994.
- Detroit Free Press, July 8, 1994.
- Esquire, October 1980.
- Metro Times (Detroit), October 26, 1994.
- Newsweek, February 14, 1977; June 9, 1986.
- People, July 24, 1978; May 30, 1983.
- Pulse!, September 1992.
- Rolling Stone, June 15, 1978; May 1, 1980; July 10, 1980; November 26, 1981; February 3, 1983.
- Stereo Review, June 1983.
- Teen, September 1980.
- Time, June 12, 1978.