On Oct. 27, 1975, Bruce Springsteen made history by becoming the first rock star to land on the cover of Time and Newsweek in the same week. The articles were written in response to the breakthrough success of Born to Run, which had been released two months earlier and had peaked at No. 3 in the weeks preceding the cover stories.
According to Peter Ames Carlin’s 2012 biography, Bruce, it wasn’t a coincidence. Jay Cocks of Time found out that Maureen Orth of Newsweek was doing a piece about Springsteen and convinced his editor that they were about to be one-upped by their chief competitor.
The magazines were each granted interviews with Springsteen. Although they both featured similar details about his background and newfound stardom after his first two albums failed, the two articles were strikingly different in tone.
Cocks, a big Springsteen fan, wrote a piece called “Rock’s New Sensation” in which he heaped praise on the new star. “His music is primal,” he wrote. “Directly in touch with all the impulses of wild humor and glancing melancholy, street tragedy and punk anarchy that have made rock the distinctive voice of a generation … Everybody is going to know where he’s coming from and just where he’s heading.”
However, Newsweek took the angle that Springsteen’s success was not only the result of his talent but also due to what Joni Mitchell called the “starmaker machinery behind the popular song.” Their story, titled “The Making of a Rock Star”, looked at Columbia Records’ marketing campaign for ‘Born to Run’ and concluded: “Hypes are as American as Coca-Cola so perhaps — in one way or another — Bruce Springsteen ‘is’ the Real Thing.”
In Carlin’s book, Orth defended her story. “I felt like I needed to report the story out. It’s balanced, just not worshipful. I was finding out stuff that made me think that this kid was getting batted around. An innocent kid who was shy and maybe not so sophisticated at that point. Who was thinking of Bruce?”
Even though Springsteen consented to the publicity, he was nonetheless worried about the possibility of it backfiring. Still, at his concert at Michigan State University on April 4, 1976, Springsteen acknowledged the positive impact being on both covers had on his career. During the requisite performance of “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight),” he changed the lyrics in the bridge to “Tell him now it’s his last chance, Rosie / Tell him I ain’t no freak / ‘Cause I got my picture / On the cover of Time and Newsweek!“