Nils Hilmer Lofgren (born June 21, 1951) 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.
Lofgren was born in Chicago, Illinois, United States, 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. Lofgren’s first instrument was classical accordion, beginning at age five, which he studied seriously for ten years. After studying classical music and jazz, throughout his youth, Lofgren switched his emphasis to rock music, and focused on the piano and the guitar.
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.
In 1968, Lofgren 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. 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 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.
Lofgren joined Neil Young at age 19 to play piano and guitar on the album After the Gold Rush. 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. 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.
After Grin disbanded in 1974, Lofgren released his eponymous 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. Subsequent albums did not always garner critical favor, although Cry Tough was voted number 10 in the 1976 NME Album round up; I Came to Dance in particular received a scathing review in the New Rolling Stone Record Guide. 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. 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 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.
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.”
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.
In December 2018, PBS NewsHour aired a 10-minute career retrospective Nils Lofgren: 50 years of ‘just being a guy in the band’.
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.
In 1984, he joined Bruce Springsteen’s backing band the E Street Band, 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 however 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) would perform with Springsteen for the first time since 1988 at the induction ceremony. This would soon lead to a hugely successful Reunion Tour which took place from 1999-2000 and a lineup now featuring both Lofgren and Van Zandt as full-time members. The reunion tour resulted in 2001’s album,The Rising, marking the first album featuring the E Street Band since 1988, and another huge tour in 2002 and 2003. Following this tour, Springsteen would work on other projects and tour 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 his album, Wrecking Ball, which featured some of the E Street Band member however 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 would celebrate the 35th anniversary of his album, The River, with a tour in support of The Ties_That_Bind: The_River_Collection box set.In 2020, Springsteen released his album, Letter to You which featured the E Street Band. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a tour in support of the album was unable to happen in 2020 or 2021 however Springsteen has said he hopes to tour with the E Street Band at some point in 2022.
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?”
On August 17, 2017, Lofgren was inducted into the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame.
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. (wikipedia)
Wonderland is a surprisingly commercial work from guitarist/vocalist Nils Lofgren, opening with a very catchy and impressive “Across the Tracks,” followed quickly by the beautiful “Into the Night,” which has flavors of Bruce Springsteen, though Lofgren’s vocal is more precise and radio-friendly than his boss, the Boss. That’s the strange thing about the music biz — when a voice is superior and the music more commercial, it still takes a back seat to personality; listen to any hit song from Neil Young to verify that statement. And take, for example, the only cover here, Bobby Womack’s classic “It’s All Over Now.” Everything’s in tune, but the band sounds like it was programmed by a computer and Lofgren’s vocal has none of the drive found in his originals. Indeed, he is again sounding like Springsteen on the very next track, “I Wait for You,” which has that Springsteen swagger with Lofgren’s to-the-point presentation. The excellent production by the singer along with his rhythm section — bassist Kevin McCormick and drummer Andy Newmark — is much more exciting than Jeffrey Baxter’s thin sound on Night Fades Away or Newmark and Lofgren’s co-produced effort, 1977’s I Came to Dance, which had none of the snap, crackle, and pop found here.
The title track reflects that observation perfectly. Interesting that on both those aforementioned albums the cover tunes are the most successful performances, while here the originals are what work and are among Lofgren’s best, with superb sound to bring them to life. The vibes on “Lonesome Ranger” add spice, and having Edgar Winter, Carly Simon, and Louise Goffin adding their voices to the mix on this LP is indicative of the class spread all over these tracks. Even more cohesive than the 1979 classic Bob Ezrin-produced Nils album, Wonderland has tons of great moments, sparkling guitar work, and a groove that is commanding. The key thing that’s missing to bring music this good to the masses is an overpowering persona, and it seems Nils Lofgren is just too nice a guy to put that driving arrogance behind the sounds to catapult them onto AM and FM radio. Even more of a pity is that Backstreet/MCA couldn’t do it for him, because the artist certainly gave them extraordinary product to work with here. (by Joe Viglione)
Nils Lofgren (vocals, guitar, keyboards)
Kevin McCormick (bass, background vocals)
Andy Newmark (drums)
Louise Goffin (vocals on 06. + 09.)
Robbie Kondor (synthesizer)
Jim Maelen (percussion)
Carly Simon (vocals on 08.)
Edgar Winter (vocals on 01.)
01. Across The Tracks (Lorgren) 2.59
02. Into The Night (Lofgren) 3.44
03. It’s All Over Now (Womack) 3.43
04. I Wait For You (Lofgren) 3.40
05. Daddy Dream (Lofgren) 4.53
06. Wonderland (Logren) 3.29
07. Room Without Love (Lofgren) 3:05
08. Confident Girl (Lofgren) 3.05
09. Lonesome Ranger (McCormick/Lofgren) 3.47
10. Everybody Wants (Lorfgren)
11. Deadline (Lofgren) 4.04
More from Nils Lofgren:
The official website: