If ever a son loved his mother, Bruce Springsteen loved his.

Adele Springsteen has passed away at the age of almost 99. If you wondered from where his love of music and his passion for life and dreams came, look no further than the woman who raised him.

Adele Ann Zerilli was born in 1925 and grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. But we won’t hold that against her. Together with husband Douglass “Dutch” Springsteen, they raised three children here, starting in 1949 with the birth of their son Bruce at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, New Jersey.

Bruce and his younger sisters were raised in Freehold, some would say the heart of Jersey. If Freehold is the heart, perhaps Adele was our soul.

This woman’s spirit was indomitable. She was the one who believed in Bruce. Or maybe it was just that she believed in believing? She was the one who knew he was a great storyteller. She steered him towards a musical path, and when he was 7 and the family was too broke to buy him a guitar, she rented one. Later, she would take out a loan just to buy him one.

Bruce Springsteen performs during the Celebrating America event following the inauguration of Joe Biden
Bruce Springsteen performs during the Celebrating America event following the inauguration of Joe Biden (Biden Inaugural Committee via AP)

Adele was always dancing. No matter the financial struggles with his dad suffering increasing mental illness and in and out of work, Bruce and his two younger sisters say they were always around music and dancing in the home. It was like its own language. If they asked on today’s school forms: Language other than English spoken at home? The answer would be music and dance.

I can’t imagine with a mom so influential and one he was lucky enough to have until the age of 98 what loss he must be feeling now. When he did his return to Broadway, today.com https://www.today.com/today/amp/tdna224365 ran a story about Bruce opening up in the show about his mother’s Alzheimer’s, a disease that struck her in her mid-80s.

"She's 95 and she's 10 years into Alzheimer's and that’s taken a lot away from us, but the need to dance hasn't left her."

Bruce Springsteen

Indeed I’ve seen Adele dance at her son’s concerts. The one I remember best was the MSG show in 2016 which was the makeup show from the snow postponement a few months prior. This was the one where he performed his album “The River” in its entirety. Special for me because it was the only time I’d ever gotten to see him play “Drive All Night” live. Also special to see Bruce’s mom at 90 dancing to “Ramrod” of all
suggestive songs. It was sweet and hilarious at once when Bruce joined her for some booty-popping.

By 2021 in his Broadway performance, “She can't speak. She can't stand. She can't feed herself. But when she sees me, there is always a smile. Still a smile. And there's still a kiss. And there's a sound which she makes when she sees me. It's just the sound but I know it means 'I love you.'”

He spoke of how he would put on some big band music from the 40s and how she would reach out for him from her chair for him to take her in his arms once again to dance.

“This is an essential part of mom’s spirit, it’s who she is. It’s beyond language and it’s more powerful than memory. It’s the embodiment. This is what she has put her trust in and lived her life by and which, despite all she has suffered, she carries on with to this moment, as if life’s beauty never deserted her.”

Jessica Rae Springsteen, Patti Scialfa, Bruce Springsteen, Adele Springsteen
In this Feb. 8, 2013 file photo, from left, Jessica Rae Springsteen, Patti Scialfa, honoree Bruce Springsteen, and Adele Springsteen arrive at the MusiCares Person of the Year tribute honoring Bruce Springsteen in Los Angeles. Springsteen and his mom, Adele, danced to two songs Sunday, April 15, 2018, at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, N.J., before severe storms caused the club to lose power.  (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

And that my friends, to me, is the essence of a Jersey girl. That life maybe wasn’t always good. Hell, maybe it never was.

Yet a Jersey girl, to me, not only has a grit about her, she has a soul like one you don’t find in other places. Like life’s beauty itself is inside her, even if she’s living in a crappy shack alongside Route 9 or among the oil tanks near Elizabeth or with a broken heart. There’s nothing like a Jersey girl, and Adele Springsteen may have born in Brooklyn but she just may have been the ultimate Jersey girl.

Then I have to wonder, if as Bruce has said it was always in some way his father who has played the hard knock characters in his songs, was it a little bit of his mom Adele who played the female roles?

If Bruce’s song “Nebraska” were 9/10s the real-life killer Charles Starkweather but 1/10 Dutch, was the girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate 1/10 Adele? Was Mary dancing across the porch as Roy Orbison played in “Thunder Road” also a bit of his mom? In “Meeting Across The River” was Cherry a little piece of Adele who was going to have that money thrown on the bed?

Adele Springsteen has passed away at age 98. This weekend, in her honor, I’m going to encourage all Jersey girls to dance a little. Whether it’s at a favorite dive bar, a Jersey City club or just alone to one song in your home, do it. Do it for Adele and for the Jersey spirit.

Just like life’s beauty, I know you have it in you.

9 Springsteen lyrics that won him the Woody Guthrie Prize

The award is given to artists from any medium who carry on the legacy of its namesake by speaking “for the voiceless with an understanding of how a platform can be used to shine a light on our world, showing us what needs to be fixed and how to fix it.” 

Gallery Credit: Jeff Deminski

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.

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