BAY RIDGE — Everyone knows that Bruce Springsteen was born in the U.S.A., but they may not know that the mother of one of New Jersey’s favorite sons once lived in Bay Ridge. Last week while appearing on “The Jimmy Kimmel Show,” Springsteen acknowledged his mother’s roots in the borough while giving a shout out to Bay Ridge.
Springsteen’s mother, Adele Springsteen (then known as Adela Zerilli) was born on May 4, 1925 in Brooklyn and lived at 467 75th St. in 1930 when she was four years old. According to James McCormack, who wrote about the Boss’s Bay Ridge roots on The One and Only Bay Ridge Facebook page, Springsteen’s mother lived on Bay Ridge Parkway with her parents and sisters until 1940, when the family resettled in Freehold, New Jersey.
So, while Springsteen has sung the praises of various towns and cities in the garden state, if his mother’s family had not moved away he might have been singing a different tune. He might have been singing about “Racing in the Street” in Bay Ridge and Coney Island girls instead of Jersey girls, and waxing nostalgic about his “Glory Days” spent in Bay Ridge, not Freehold, New Jersey.
The girls in the bars along the Jersey Shore in Asbury Park and Seaside Heights he sings about might have been strolling along the boardwalk in Brighton Beach; the laborers in the factory towns of Elizabeth, Linden and Mahwah might have given way to the hardworking folks at the Brooklyn Navy Yard or in Downtown Brooklyn; and “Sandy” from those summers in Asbury Park might have just as easily lived in Sunset Park, had Springsteen spent his childhood growing up in Bay Ridge.
While the block Adele Springsteen lived on in Depression-era Brooklyn is now known as “Doctors’ Row,” and has already been designated a historic district and given landmark status, for Springsteen fans the designation takes on special meaning.
Dr. Roy Olsen, a podiatrist whose home and office are at 453 75th Street was thrilled to learn about the Springsteen connection. “The other night I spoke to my friend Mary, who did a little investigating and found that there was an Italian man who came here from Italy unable to read and write, but went to school and became a lawyer,” said Olsen. “He eventually got married, and he and his wife had a daughter who grew up in the house, and it turns out that this daughter married a Douglas Springsteen who lived in Freehold, New Jersey.”
Olsen said he thought it was amazing to learn about Springsteen’s mother. “I’ve always been such a big Springsteen fan and just to know that his mother grew up just five houses down from here, I think it’s wonderful,” he added.
City Councilmember Justin Brannan, a rock musician in his own right, was glad to hear about the Springsteen connection in his neighborhood as well. “I guess there must be something in the water! Proud to hear that our neighborhood is part of the Boss’s origin story,” Brannan told this paper. “But in some ways I’m not surprised. A working man’s musician, who is as patriotic as he is politically engaged? Sounds almost like a Bay Ridge kid himself,” he added.
While Brooklyn can claim a number of music icons who were born and raised in the borough, including Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand and Neil Sedaka, and while the Boss may not be able to claim Bay Ridge as “My Hometown,” his mother certainly can because, after all, it was where she was “Born to Run.”