It’s a head scratching combination, but it’s true: Bruce Springsteen once opened for Canadian soft rock icon, Anne Murray.

It happened in August of 1974 at the Schaefer Music Festival in Central Park. Boz Scaggs was supposed to be the headliner but had to cancel and Bruce was tabbed to replace him. There was a little bit of a kerfuffle as to who would be at the top of the bill without Scaggs, with Murray’s management insisting that she go on last since she (at the time) was more commercially successful than the Boss (she had reached the Top 10 with “Snowbird” and “Danny’s Song").

Springsteen’s manager agreed with the provision that he be allowed to perform his entire 80 minute set, so Bruce performed in the middle (folk duo Brewer & Shipley opened). While Murray got to headline, according to Robert Christgau in the Village Voice, “it was Springsteen's night, probably the biggest of his life, a standing ovation from a full house of 5000.”

During Springsteen’s performance, Murray’s management regretted their concession and tried to get Springsteen to cut his set short, but that wasn’t going to happen. As the New York Times said, “perhaps it was a mistake to put Mr. Springsteen ... against Miss Murray, the headliner.” The Times also reported that “confrontations - his and hers – broke out among the assembled.”

After Bruce was done, at least a quarter of the crowd left, but get this part of Christgau’s review (and he’s a big Springsteen fan): “Murray's band was better than Springsteen's, which like a lot of great rock and roll groups tends to repeat itself. The difference, of course, was that Springsteen's music was necessary. Murray was just doing an honest night's work.”

Springsteen paid tribute to Murray later in his career, though. At a performance in Vancouver in 2008, he called Murray out during an encore to sing with him.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.

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