Things You Didn't Know About Bruce Springsteen's Wife Patti Scialfa

Patti Scialfa has been a member of Bruce Springsteen's The E Street Band since 1984 and Springsteen's partner since 1988. She has been a musician and songwriter throughout her life, and although her own creative pursuits have often taken a back seat to those of her much more famous husband, Scialfa has continued to work both with and without the E Street Band for over 35 years.

Born Vivienne Patricia Scialfa on July 29, 1953, Scialfa grew up in the affluent suburb of Deal, New Jersey, per the Washington Post. She studied jazz at the University of Miami before moving to New York and starting busking on street corners, singing in clubs, and doing session work in studios. 

Scialfa joined the band Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes as a backup singer and met Bruce Springsteen at the Asbury Park, New Jersey club the Stone Pony. Scialfa noted in 2004, "I was always friends with a lot of guys, maybe because their girlfriends were girly-girls and they felt safe with me. Sometimes after the weekend was over, we'd go out for a hamburger." In a 1988 People magazine article about Scialfa, Asbury Jukes singer Bobby Bandiera called her "a beer-drinking buddy. If you're in a bad mood about having a fight with your old lady, you can talk to her about it."

Patti Scialfa and Bruce Springsteen had a workplace romance

In 1984, E Street Band member Nils Lofgren was too sick to join Springsteen and the rest of the band on tour, and Springsteen asked Scialfa to join as a backup singer. She agreed and joined the tour three days before its start. A year later, per People, Springsteen's label, Columbia, offered her a record contract of her own. That year, Springsteen married model Julianne Phillips; Scialfa had reportedly told people that she had feelings for her boss, but she didn't sit around pining for him, even briefly dating actor Tom Cruise as well as various New York musicians. 

Things changed when Springsteen asked her to rejoin him on the road in 1987 for the "Tunnel of Love" tour, which delayed Scialfa recording her own record. The album "Tunnel of Love" contained lyrics that hinted at trouble in Springsteen's relationship with Phillips and the tour featured a more front and central role for Scialfa, who performed more duets with Springsteen than she had in the past. When asked about Scialfa's new prominence on stage, Springsteen credited the songs' subject matter, noting, "The album is about men and women, you know." When reporters asked Scialfa about her extra time in the spotlight, she agreed, explaining "I didn't know when we started rehearsing that he was going to give me a lot to do ... Bruce coaxed me and urged me to reach. He was very patient, very willing to teach. He had a lot of confidence in me." 

From Asbury Park to Beverly Hills

By the spring of 1988, rumors were flying that Scialfa and Springsteen were having an affair. Their onstage interactions got steamier and more suggestive, and in June they were spotted kissing in Rome, Italy. By the summer of 1988, their relationship was out in the open and they were seen together constantly in New York and New Jersey. People quoted a source on the couple: "Patti stifled her feelings for a long time. She's in love. They're both in love. They're glowing. They're together a lot and they seem very affectionate." 

Per "Racing In The Street: The Bruce Springsteen Reader," Springsteen and Julianne Phillips divorced in 1989, and in 1990, Springsteen and Scialfa moved to a $14 million estate in Beverly Hills, California. Their son, Evan James Springsteen, was born on July 25, 1990. The couple married on June 8, 1991. Their second child, Jessica Rae Springsteen, was born on December 30, 1991 and their third child, Sam Ryan Springsteen, was born on January 5, 1990. In a 1996 interview with The Advocate, reprinted on the site Greasy Lake, when asked about the negative reaction some people had to Scialfa and Springsteen falling in love, Springsteen replied, "It's a strange society that assumes it has the right to tell people whom they should love and whom they shouldn't. But the truth is, I basically ignored the entire thing as much as I could. I said, 'Well, all I know is, this feels real, and maybe I have got a mess going here in some fashion, but that's life.'"

Scialfa called 'Rumble Doll' 'a love letter to my husband'

In 1993, Scialfa finally released her first solo album, "Rumble Doll." In a 2004 interview with Acoustic Storm, Scialfa said of her first record, "It was a very honest record for me and I was very happy with it because I can put that record on and it really expresses a very specific time in my life honestly and creatively. That record was like really a love letter to my husband, Bruce, and had very few characters in it. Just two people in the record struggling to see if they can be close, if you can trust the person, how intimate can you get without getting hurt." 

Per AllMusic, Scialfa wrote all 12 songs on "Rumble Doll." The site's review called the album a "slow seduction" and noted, "there's not a bad song in the bunch, and the title track is a gem." After years of singing backup for her husband, Springsteen contributed backing vocals to several "Rumble Doll" songs. In a 2004 interview with the Washington Post, Scialfa said of the album "I was happy with the way it was received, and I've met a lot of nice people who seem to know it. I wish I could have gone out and played live after it came out. If I'd gone out and played it live, it would've made the record more accessible to people."

'21st Street Lullaby': 'Songs just about living"

Scialfa's second album, "21st Street Lullaby," followed in 2004. Per Acoustic Storm, Scialfa contrasted the record with the intimacy of her first one, saying, "There are some songs with the same theme of closeness; how to be close, love songs. But then there's other songs just about living, and trying to find out who you are, where are the people around you, where are you going to set your compass, and are you going to follow that; where are you going to set your moral compass, and are you going to follow it." 

A 2004 interview with the Washington Post noted that "21st Street Lullaby" came out almost exactly 20 years after Springsteen's iconic 1984 album "Born In The USA." The article noted that the album had ended up bringing Scialfa into the spotlight, and while it had kickstarted her career, it hadn't led to a large body of solo work, as she had originally hoped it would. Scialfa said of her trajectory as an artist, "A lot of it is my own ambivalence, because if you really want to get something done, you get it done. My real priorities were my family — my kids and Bruce — and my work with the E Street Band." In speaking about the release of "21st Street Lullaby," she explained, "I don't look at it as an event. I don't really sell many records. I don't look at it so externally. I was just trying to make a really good record for myself."

'Play It As It Lays': 'Complexities of a long-term relationship'

In 2007, Scialfa released her third solo album, "Play It As It Lays." In an interview that year with NPR's Weekend Edition, Scialfa said the idea behind the record "was to go into the complexities of a long-term relationship. ... I feel that my marriage has really broadened me and certainly given me a sense of some completion but that you can't really look for that. And if you're looking for that, you're going to be disappointed." The album included references to everyone from writer Sylvia Plath to racecar driver Shirley Muldowney to '60s girl groups like the Chiffons. She once again explained how she always had to balance her solo work with her duties to the E Street Band as well as to her family, noting she had just taken two days off from touring to get her son Evan ready for college. 

In 2020, as reported by Rolling Stone, Bobby Roth, a director, friend, and neighbor of Springsteen and Scialfa, asked Scialfa to write some songs for his teen drama "Pearl." Scialfa was happy to oblige, contributing two new songs; Roth also used two songs from "Rumble Doll." When asked if she was working on a new album, Scialfa replied that she was, noting she was halfway through the process but was sharing a studio with her prolific husband during the pandemic: "He's always like, 'I have to go do this thing and that thing.' Getting some traction is the hardest thing for me."