Born in Deal, New Jersey -- about eight minutes from where I write -- singer Patti Scialfa first worked professionally as a back-up singer for New Jersey bar bands. That was after high school, back in 1994. Later, she earned a music degree from New York University, transferring from the University of Miami's highly-respected jazz conservatory at the Frost School of Music.
For many years, she struggled in the songwriting and recording industry in New York and New Jersey, playing at Kenny’s Castaway in Greenwich Village, as well as Asbury Park's The Stone Pony. Scialfa had a brief role in The Stone Pony's house band Cats on a Smooth Surface. These gigs won her notice and, eventually, recording work with Southside Johnny and David Johansen.
In 1984, Scialfa joined Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, three or four days before the opening show of the Born in the U.S.A. Tour, either because Springsteen wanted to expand the emotional range of the band (Marsh, Glory Days) or because Nils Lofgren contracted mononucleosis, which made it impossible for him to sing his backing vocals. Nobody's telling.
Scialfa has recorded three solo albums, 1993's Rumble Doll, 2004's 23rd Street Lullaby and 2007's Play It As It Lays. Her first two albums received four-star reviews from Rolling Stone, while the third got three and a half. Her records are a mix of confessional songwriting, impressive vocal range, and traditional country, folk and rock music. Springsteen and fellow E Street bandmates like Lofgren and Roy Bittan contributed backing work.
Patti Scialfa and Bruce Springsteen met through the New Jersey Shore music scene. The two remained casual friends in the early '80s. In a September 2007 Rolling Stone interview, Scialfa stated her and Bruce's relationship at that time "would have to have been the real deal, or nothing at all."
During the 1988 Tunnel of Love Express tour, Scialfa took a central role in the sexually-charged stage performances, such as "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)," "Tougher than the Rest" and "I'm a Coward", thereby displacing Springsteen's traditional on-stage foil, saxophonist Clarence Clemons. Springsteen and Scialfa were later pictured together in tabloid photographs on a hotel balcony in Rome. Springsteen was married at the time to model Julianne Phillips.
Springsteen's divorce from Phillips was finalized in 1989. In 1990 Scialfa gave birth to the couple's first child, Evan James. On June 8, 1991 Springsteen and Scialfa married at their Beverly Hills home. Springsteen and Scialfa had two more children, Jessica Rae (1991); and Samuel Ryan (1994).
Patti might be best known as the woman who inspired Springsteen to write (the bawdy) "Red Headed Woman". He also dedicates his famous cover of Tom Waits' "Jersey Girl" to her in concert (although his initial performances of the song pre-dated his relationship with her).
Thanks to Patti, Bruce, and Wikipedia.