Robert Clark Seger (born May 6, 1945) is an American rock singer and musician who began his career in the 1960s playing in the Detroit area. Although Seger has achieved plenty of success nationally, he is far more famous and well known in his home state of Michigan and surrounding states, where he enjoys a near-Springsteenian iconic status.
Seger scored his first big national hit in 1969 with "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" but otherwise remained strictly a local favorite until 1976 and the release of Live Bullet, a concert album recorded over two nights at Detroit's Cobo Arena. Regarded by many as one of the greatest live albums of all time, Live Bullet reached the national chart and produced a radio staple with "Turn the Page". Night Moves, a studio album released later the same year, was an even bigger hit and gave Seger his first national Top 10 single with its title track. Subsequent albums, including Stranger in Town and Against the Wind, spawned more hits, and Seger has continued to enjoy considerable success over the subsequent decades.
Seger's Signature Song is "Old Time Rock and Roll," which is perhaps best known as the song that played during the famous scene of Tom Cruise dancing in his underwear in the movie Risky Business. Another of his songs, "Like a Rock", was employed for several years as a jingle for Chevrolet's truck commercials. However, his only #1 Billboard hit is "Shakedown," the theme song of Beverly Hills Cop II, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Not to be confused with folk musician Pete Seeger.
- Ramblin' Gamblin' Man (1969)^
- Noah (1969)^
- Mongrel (1970)^
- Brand New Morning (1971)
- Smokin' O.P.'s (1972)
- Back in '72 (1973)
- Seven (1974)
- Beautiful Loser (1975)
- Live Bullet (1976)^^
- Night Moves (1976)^^
- Stranger in Town (1978)^^
- Against the Wind (1980)^^
- Nine Tonight (1981)^^
- The Distance (1982)^^
- Like a Rock (1986)^^
- The Fire Inside (1991)^^
- It's a Mystery (1995)^^
- Face the Promise (2006)
- Ride Out (2014)
- I Knew You When (2017)^=with the Bob Seger System
^^=with the Silver Bullet Band
"Just take those old tropes off the shelf..."
- Artist and the Band: Seger was backed by, and billed alongside, "The Silver Bullet Band" from 1976 to 1995.
- Auto Erotica/Sex as Rite-of-Passage: "Night Moves"Out past the cornfields where the woods got heavy
Out in the back seat of my '60 Chevy
Workin' on mysteries without any clues
Workin' on our night moves...
- The Band Minus the Face: On much of the 1969 album Noah, Seger himself is nowhere to be found. Instead we get several songs written and sung by a Replacement Scrappy named Tom Neme.
- Canon Discontinuity: His early albums have been out of print for years due to Creator Backlash (see the Trivia page).
- Christmas Songs: One of his '60s singles was "Sock It to Me, Santa," and in 1987 he did a cover of "The Little Drummer Boy" for the first A Very Special Christmas charity compilation which still gets a lot of radio play.
- Chronological Album Title: Seven
- Cover Album: Smokin' O.P.'s
- Cover Version: Quite a few over the years. Besides Smokin' O.P.'s, he's done covers of such songs as "Midnight Rider" (The Allman Brothers Band), "Nutbush City Limits" (Ike & Tina Turner), "Shame on the Moon" (Rodney Crowell), "Fortunate Son" (Creedence Clearwater Revival), "New Coat of Paint" (Tom Waits), "The Devil's Right Hand" (Steve Earle), and "Democracy" (Leonard Cohen).
- Dead Man's Hand: "Fire Lake"Who's gonna play those eights and aces?
- Dude Looks Like a Lady: Mentioned in "Turn the Page" as one of the things that bum rockers out:Most times you can't hear 'em talk
Other times you can
All the same old clichés:
"Is it a woman or a man?"
And you always seem outnumbered
You don't dare make a stand
- Early-Installment Weirdness: The 1966 novelty "The Ballad of the Yellow Beret," sung by Seger but credited to "The Beach Bums." A parody of Barry Sadler's patriotic No. 1 hit from the same year, "The Ballad of the Green Berets," the song blasted draft dodgers as cowards — a stark contrast to the antiwar message of "2 + 2 = ?," which came just two years later.
- Epic Rocking: Nine Tonight includes a live cover of Chuck Berry's "Let It Rock" that runs 10+ minutes (although it's edited down considerably for the CD version).
- Feeling Their Age: After singing of "the sweet summertime," the last lyrics of "Night Moves" are "Strange how the night moves... with autumn closing in." "Like a Rock" meets this head on with the opening to the second verse... "Twenty years, now. Where'd they go?" For each song, it's an effective Wham Line, and it pushes the song into Tear Jerker territory.
- Fun with Acronyms: "U.M.C. (Upper Middle Class)"
- Garage Rock: His '60s output with the Last Heard mainly falls into this category.
- Grand Finale: When Ride Out was released, Seger stated that it would most likely be his final new album (which seemed like a pretty good bet, given his age and the fact that his voice had decayed). He changed his mind three years later with I Knew You When.
- Greatest Hits Album: It took him a long time to release one, but when he finally did (1994), it became the biggest seller of his career. He's put out a couple more since then.
- Growing Up Sucks: Both "Night Moves" and "Against the Wind" are about the promise and excitement of youth fading to mundane adulthood.
- Heavy Meta: "Old Time Rock and Roll", "Rock and Roll Never Forgets", "Heavy Music" from The Last Heard.
- Homesickness Hymn: "Turn the Page" is one of rock's most vivid examples of road fatigue, as it's told from the perspective of a weary musician who's burned out on touring and just wants to go home for a while.
- Hot For Teacher: "School Teacher"
- Important Haircut: Cut his trademark long hair in the early '80s.
- In the Style of:
- His 1967 Last Heard single "Persecution Smith" is a Protest Song that owes more than a little to another Bob.
- "Lucifer" sounds a bit like a Creedence Clearwater Revival tune.
- "Get Out of Denver" sounds for all the world like a Chuck Berry cover, but Seger composed it himself.
- "Roll Me Away" and "The Fire Inside" are anthemic rockers reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen, and fittingly enough both feature piano work from the E Street Band's own Roy Bittan.
- Seger's vocals on "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" sound similar to James Brown on "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag". "Sock It to Me, Santa" is even more Brown-like.
- Intercourse with You: "Night Moves," "The Horizontal Bop"
- Listing Cities: "Katmandu"
- Live Album: Live Bullet, Nine Tonight
- Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: "The Fire Inside"
- New Sound Album: 2006's Face the Promise: Seger's voice has deepened a bit (see Vocal Evolution below), he's no longer backed by the Silver Bullet Band, and the tracks are based on grunge, glam metal and alternative rock, which sounded very different than his classic '70s and '80s rock.
- Nostalgic Narrator: "Railroad Days", "Night Moves", "Mainstreet", "Against the Wind", "Like a Rock"...
- One-Woman Song: "Tales of Lucy Blue" (Ramblin' Gamblin' Man), "Louise" (Brand New Morning), "Rosalie" (Back in '72), "Jody Girl" (Beautiful Loser)...
- Out, Damned Spot!: "Hands in the Air"If you're selling these lies, these impossible dreams
You can keep on washing, but you'll never get clean
- Protest Song: He had several early in his career: "Persecution Smith", "2+2=?", "Lookin' Back", "Highway Child", "Leanin' on My Dream"...
- Repurposed Pop Song: "Like a Rock" for Chevrolet's iconic 1991 to 2004 ad campaign of the same name for their trucks.
- Ripped from the Headlines: "Her Strut" was inspired by seeing Jane Fonda testify before Congress on television.
- Rock Star Song: "Turn the Page", in a bittersweet way.
- Sexy Walk: "Her Strut".
- "Rosalie", a song included on the Back in '72 album and later Covered Up by Thin Lizzy, is a tribute to Rosalie Trombley, a music programmer for CKLW-AM in Windsor, Ontario. (The station was a Top 40 powerhouse for metro Detroit in the '60s and '70s, and played a big role in establishing Seger's Michigan following prior to his national breakout.)
- "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" includes the line "All of Chuck's children are out there playing his licks."
- Siamese Twin Songs: Many radio stations used the Live Bullet recording of "Travelin' Man" and "Beautiful Loser", which pairs the songs this way.
- Small Town Boredom: "Face the Promise"
- Vocal Evolution: By the 1990s, his voice got gradually deeper than it had been before. This change is likely a combination of old age, smoking and shouting onstage for 40 years.