Someone has just reminded [Patti Scialfa] that it has been exactly 20 years since the release of her husband's watershed album, "Born in the U.S.A." She finds this mildly depressing. After all, "Born in the U.S.A." marked the beginning of Scialfa's working relationship with Bruce Springsteen, offering the previously unknown singer both an induction into the fabled E Street Band and the corresponding hope of her own solo career. Two decades, nine Springsteen albums and countless concerts later, the former has panned out nicely. The latter, not so much.
Sitting in a Manhattan recording studio this month, Scialfa seems more nervous about her children's graduation ceremonies the next day than about the CD's impending release. (Springsteen and Scialfa have three children: Evan, 13, Jessica, 12, and Sam, 10.) Gregarious and cheerful, she'll answer just about anything. She knows that the rest of the world, to the extent that it considers her at all, might find that the idea of Scialfa performing without her husband takes some getting used to. "It's not that strange to me, because I've been singing since I was 14 or 15," she says. "I've been writing and making my own music for a long time."
Springsteen eventually asked Scialfa to join the "U.S.A." tour after band member Nils Lofgren came down with history's most fortuitous case of laryngitis. "He said, 'Gee, you know we've never let a woman in the group and I doubt this is gonna happen, but why don't you just come up and we'll see how it goes?' " recalls Scialfa, who wound up joining the tour three days before it began. The next year she landed a deal with Springsteen's label, but delayed plans to make her album when Springsteen called again, this time asking her to join the tour for his next record, 1987's "Tunnel of Love."
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