For These Stars, Mom Rules

By Donna St. George
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 11, 2008

Nils Lofgren drove out to a retirement village in Silver Spring. A longtime guitarist with Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, Lofgren had played in Charlottesville the night before, and he had another sold-out show in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the next day. But between concerts, he added a stop: dinner with his mom in the Washington suburbs.

Josephine Lofgren, 81, was thrilled to see him -- the eldest of her four sons, the one who set out to make a life in rock-and-roll and succeeded.

The Lofgrens dined in the cafeteria at the retirement complex, inviting along three of Josephine's friends. They chatted about family life and politics. For Josephine, it was easy to forget that her son had anything to do with bright lights, big stages and cheering crowds.

"All of that has not gone to his head," said Josephine, a retired bookkeeper whose husband died 10 years ago. "He's still a very down-to-earth, caring person. That's what I'm most proud of. All of my sons are caring men, and they're all successful in their own way."

As Mother's Day approached, Josephine Lofgren and other local mothers talked in interviews about lives that started out along ordinary paths -- and often in humble circumstances -- and were changed by the unanticipated celebrity of their children.

For some, the differences have been small. For others, fame has recast a mother's role.

Like mothers everywhere, they appreciate that success comes in many forms, much of it far outside the spotlight.

"People will say to me, 'How do I handle my daughter being up there on stage?' " said Bowie Carpenter, mother of Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter. "I just think of her as being an amazing talent."

Still, the Charlottesville area resident said, she is equally proud of all four of her daughters. "My children are my life's achievement."

Similarly, Josephine Lofgren thinks of the best shows she has seen not as those that draw the biggest crowds but rather whenever Nils plays the Birchmere in Alexandria. For at least a few songs, all four brothers are onstage with guitars -- Tom, who played in the band Grin With Nils and is a graphics consultant specializing in litigation support; Mike, a residential contractor; and Mark, a lawyer.

They always play "Shine Silently," her favorite.

"It's very thrilling to sit there," she said, "and think of these men as babies and boys, never thinking this would happen."

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