Going on 65 years old, Rick Springfield’s many incarnations in the entertainment industry have amounted to a rather stellar career.
Springfield has gone from Australian-born teen idol pop star to daytime soap opera stalwart to rock star, movie and television actor and now writer and novelist.
Best known for his early-1980s rock hit “Jessie’s Girl,” Springfield will take the stage of the D&R Theatre on Thursday, April 17, for a stop on his “Stripped Down Tour,” the performer’s first-ever tour without a backing band. During the show, the Grammy award-winning musician, actor and New York Times bestselling author will perform many of his hit songs, throw in a substantial amount of storytelling, a few of his many top-10 hits, play some old favorites that the singer has never played live and partake in a question-and-answer session with the D&R audience.
“It’s very different from the band show,” Springfield said last week during a 20-minute phone interview while he was driving along the Pacific Coast Highway in Southern California. “It’s a different set list. I bring a bunch of guitars — a slide guitar, a blues guitar — so it’s about half and half music and storytelling
Springfield brings along his “band in a box” — a laptop loaded with other musical parts he recorded to accompany himself at select times during the show.
Springfield was born Richard Lewis Springthorpe, the son of an Australian Army career officer and his wife, Eileen, in the suburbs of Sydney. As a teen, he started playing guitar in various bands while his father was stationed in England. He played lead guitar in a number of bands with some popular success upon the family’s return to Australia, where he began his recording career.
He moved to the Los Angeles area in 1972, where he signed with Columbia Records, recorded his second album, “Comic Book Heroes” and was promoted as a teeny-bop idol around the same time as David Cassidy and Donny Osmond.
His acting career began soon after with a Saturday morning ABC cartoon show called “Mission: Magic!” during which he performed an original song in each episode.
Springfield continued to write and record music and made his big breakthrough in 1981 when he released the album “Working Class Dog.” The top single from that album was “Jessie’s Girl,” which exploded worldwide and was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks. Springfield won the 1981 Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for “Jessie’s Girl” and the album reached No. 7 on the Billboard charts.
Another Billboard Top 10 hit from that album was “I’ve Done Everything for You,” written by rocker Sammy Hagar and originally appeared on The Red Rocker’s 1978 live album “All Night Long.”
Hagar never had a hit with the song, but Springfield’s cover, which he said is on the “Stripped Down” set list, reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“My producer Keith Olson found that song, but he offered it to Pat Benatar first,” Springfield said. “She turned it down.”
Later this summer, Springfield will be touring alongside Benatar and her guitarist/husband Neil Giraldo.
“I’ve know them for a very long time,” said Springfield. “Neil played guitar on the original recording of ‘Jessie’s Girl.’”
Interestingly, those early Springfield (and Benatar’s) recordings were produced by Olson at the famed Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, Calif, the same place that Grays Harbor-bred Nirvana recorded its milestone album “Nevermind.”
In early 2013, Springfield collaborated with former Nirvana drummer and The Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl on the song “The Man That Never Was” for the Sound City tribute soundtrack, “Sound City: Real to Reel.” At the 2014 Grammy’s the album was awarded the Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media.
“Nirvana was responsible for putting Sound City back on the map,” said Springfield, adding that he was unaware that Aberdeen was Kurt Cobain’s hometown and never crossed paths with Cobain during his career. “I mention them in passing in my new novel. The (protagonist’s) sister is a big Nirvana fan.”
In May, that novel — Springfield’s first piece of fiction — “Magnificent Vibration” will be released. In addition, he will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Springfield’s venture into writing was preceded by a rather successful acting career that started about the same time he was recording “Working Class Dog.” He was cast on the hit daytime soap opera “General Hospital” as Dr. Noah Drake from 1981 to 1983, while also touring with his band. Springfield came back to revise that role in 2005 through 2007 and again in 2013.
“Acting in soap operas is so much work,” Springfield recalls. “For everything involved in the soap world, it’s really the hardest acting gig out there.”
Springfield followed that up with numerous starring roles in several movies and numerous TV series during the 1980s and 1990s, but he took a rather eccentric turn when he starred as a rather twisted and hedonistic version of himself in Season 3 of HBO’s hit series “Californication.” That bawdy, foul-mouthed, bed-hopping, coke-snorting version of Springfield is very different from the real world in which he’s been married for 30 years and has two grown sons, ages 25 and 28.
“That was a lot of fun,” Springfield said of “Californication.” “It’s a great show with great writing. I discovered as an actor later in life that it’s really all about the writing.”
And, now, that’s the latest craft of which he’s become enamored. It started with his bestselling autobiography Late, Late at Night: a Memoir, which was released in 2010. In October of that year, it peaked at No. 13 on The New York Times Best Seller list. In August 2012, the book was named No. 23 of “The 25 Great Rock Memoirs of All Time” by Rolling Stone magazine. The success of that book inspired its publisher to advise Springfield to start writing novels.
His first, “Magnificent Vibration,” comes out in May and is spawning excellent advance reviews in literary magazines. Springfield says the book took him about four months to write.
“I travel a lot so there’s a lot of great downtime — at the gate, on the plane — I can use to write … I love writing. I used to write stories as a kid and later I channeled that into song writing. It’s something I can do by myself and I don’t have an audience. It’s really the most fun for me.”
While the novel is receiving rave reviews from the likes of bestselling author Mitch Albom and literary magazines such as Booklist. One critic writes: “This novel is remarkably creative, for no other reason than Springfield boggles with countless euphemisms for male reproductive organs … and the act of sexual procreation. … Springfield delivers a buckle-your-seat-belts ride, referencing the Loch Ness monster, superheroes, schlock films, Christian fundamentalism, sexual repression, the Pacific garbage patch and existentialist fatalism.”
But it also has its detractors: “Richard is a very naughty boy. Why can’t he write a nice story? I don’t know why he’s so obsessed with his private parts. Rude child. I wish I’d had a daughter instead.” — Eileen Louise Springthorpe (Rick’s mum).
Rick Springfield’s “Stripped Down Tour” comes to the D&R Theatre on Wednesday night, April 17. Show time is 7 p.m. and tickets range from $45 to $65 each.