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249 B ob Seger clearly recalls the first inkling that music might be his life’s pursuit—as we’d expect from the guy who sings that rock ’n’ roll never forgets. “My dad made a big deal when I was, like, four years old about the fact that I sang, ‘I’m Looking over a Four-Leaf Clover’ in the back of his ’49 Buick,” Seger remembers. “He just went nuts over that.I think that was maybe the very first inclination for me.” Sixty-six years later, that’s proven to be a sage revelation. Seger has carved out a four-decadesplus recording career in which he’s sold more than 50 million albums and launched enduring hits such as “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man,” “Night Moves,” “Turn the Page,” “Hollywood Nights,” “Against the Wind,” and “Like a Rock.” “Old Time Rock and Roll,”meanwhile, from 1978, is not only the number 1 jukebox selection of all time but has virtually replaced Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary” as the celebratory anthem for weddings, bar mitzvahs, and similar occasions. Moreover,Seger—a 2006 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and a 2012 Songwriters Hall of Fame arrival—is largely responsible for creating a model for, and voice of, the midwestern singer-songwriter, a different breed of rock ’n’ roll animal than its East and West Coast counterparts. Seger and those who Bob Seger The Early Years Gary Graff Bob Seger at Pine Knob, 1976. © Leni Sinclair Collection. 250 deTroıT rocks The ’60 s followed drew the same kind of inspiration from Hank Williams,Woody Guthrie,and Bob Dylan but applied their own regional aesthetic to it—creating a more narrative form built on earthy parables about maintaining everyday ideals amid all manner of adversity and temptation. No plaintive troubadours, these folk, Seger and company also showed you could deliver these contemplative paeans with the same kind of furious energy that you’d use to sing about cars and girls. “Bob Seger’s music [is] thoughtful and badass, all in one measure,” says John Mellencamp. “I learned to respect Bob for . . . playing by his rules and staying honest to who he is and where he comes from. I am proud to be part of his brood.” In his work, Seger celebrates the nobility of the “Beautiful Loser” and the workers on the assembly lines “Makin’ Thunderbirds,” as well as the metaphorical struggle of running “Against the Wind.” The subject of his “Hollywood Nights” grapples with a double-edged sword as he lives life in too fast of a lane, while the exuberant freedoms of his “Ramblin’Gamblin’Man”and “Travelin’Man” are not as unfettered as they initially seem but rather tempered by a desire for more dependable relationships. And the warm nostalgia of “Night Moves,”“Main Street,”and “Brave Strangers”reveals the wisdom of remembering, but not necessarily wallowing in,the past in a pursuit to make sure “The Fire Inside” still burns hot. Seger is not the first of rock’s songwriters to espouse these values—nor are they the exclusive property of the heartland. But he’s filled the songs on his studio albums with a richly interwoven set of place and beliefs that surely speak to a life spent, excepting a couple years in Los Angeles, soaking up inspiration from the Detroit environs where he still lives. “I don’t think it was really a choice; it was where I lived and where I felt comfortable,”Seger explains. “By being in Detroit,I can keep things in perspective and just work as much as I can but also have a life outside of it where I’m grounded and where people put me in my place. Everybody there treats me just like a guy and not a rock star, and that’s good. It’s a more calm and grounded atmosphere to work in.” Seger’s earliest influences came from his parents. His father, Stewart, was an autoworker who played a variety of instruments—clarinet being his best— and on weekends performed with bands in the Ann Arbor area.Seger describes his mother,Charlotte,as a serious music lover: “You name a song, and [she’ll] tell you not only the singer but the writer and when it was recorded. She was like a music encyclopedia.” Seger’s father gave him his start around age nine, teaching him some chords on the bass ukulele, which led the fledgling musician to learn songs by Elvis Presley...


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