The Boss’s most boss songs
10 essential Bruce Springsteen tracks
After six years away from the road, Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band kicked off their European tour back in February and, true to form, he’s not stopped yet.
Regularly playing for over three hours every night, Bruce Springsteen has aired 63 different songs over the 50-date tour so far with the only sure thing seeming to be 2020’s ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’ closing out the epic gig every night. Last month, Paul McCartney said that he “blames” Bruce Springsteen for increasingly long shows, but we’re not complaining.
Fans from 105 countries will be watching Bruce Springsteen on his 2023 tour, with the strongest demand coming from fans in the USA, United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Netherlands and Sweden.
Bruce Springsteen performs with the E Street Band at Paris La Défense Arena in Nanterre, France on May 13, 2023.
Springsteen released his first studio album ‘Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.’ back in 1973 and has gone on to share 20 other records since, including 1975’s breakout record ‘Born To Run’ and last year’s covers album ‘Only The Strong Survive’. There’s a lot of music to dive into but we’ve cherry picked the ten essential Bruce Springsteen songs that everyone needs to hear.
10. ‘Thunder Road’ (‘Born To Run’, 1975)
The opening track to Springsteen’s breakout album ‘Born To Run’ sees The Boss at his beautiful best. Tackling small town romance but elevating it to something sweeping, universal and powerful, ‘Thunder Road’ is perhaps the quintessential Springsteen song, allowing all the hallmarks of his longstanding E Street Band to shine. He’s gone on to describe ‘Thunder Road’ as an invitation to a wider world.
Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run
Bruce Springsteen backstage at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia, October 10, 1978.
9. ‘Badlands’ (‘Darkness On The Edge Of Town’, 1978)
A surprisingly hopeful song considering the angst that fuelled it. ‘Badlands’ is the opening track to Springsteen’s ‘Darkness On The Edge Of Town’ and sees the protagonist wanting change and to take control of their life. Backed by The E Street Band at their bombastic best, it’s a rumbling, self-empowering anthem.
Bruce Springsteen – Darkness On The Edge Of Town
8. ‘Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)’ (‘Only The Strong Survive’, 2022)
A giddy reimagining of the Frank Wilson classic is the standout song on ‘Only The Strong Survive’, an album of soul covers which came out late last year. Doing away with the usual hints of darkness that typically pepper his music, this Springsteen track is about as joyous as they come.
Bruce Springsteen – Only The Strong Survive
7. ‘Born To Run’ (‘Born To Run’, 1975)
A timeless karaoke classic, ‘Born To Run’ is an optimistic, romantic, coming-of-age anthem that feels uplifting without resorting to cheese. Driven by defiance but cut with a real communal spirit, the bellowing “Tramps like us, baby / we were born to run” has become a call to arms over the years that still rings true today.
Bruce Springsteen plays his Fender Telecaster guitar while singing his hit song "Born in the U.S.A." as he completed his world tour at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in September 1985.
6. ‘Born In The USA’ (‘Born In The USA’, 1984)
Often confused as a celebration of the American dream, the opening track to Springsteen’s seventh studio album of the same name deals with a working class man in the midst of a spiritual crisis after returning home from the Vietnam war. A thundering epic that hides a darker story, ‘Born In The USA’ sees Springsteen at his biting best.
Bruce Springsteen – Born In The U.S.A.
5. ‘Atlantic City’ (‘Nebraska’, 1982)
The raw, vulnerable, trembling breakout song from Springsteen’s dark, despondent, stripped back ‘Nebraska’ charts a doomed romance as a couple move to Atlantic City but get caught up in debt and organised crime. Full of inevitable tragedy and a sense of helplessness, live this track has been twisted into a full-band version to offer a sense of optimism but on record, it’s as bleak as Bruce treads.
Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska
4. ‘The Promise’ (‘The Promise’, 2010)
Originally written for fourth album ‘Darkness On The Edge Of Town’, there was something about ‘The Promise’ that Springsteen kept coming back to until it was finally released as part of an expanded version in 2010. Inspired by his upbringing as a child of two working-class immigrants, there’s a tangible frustration to ‘The Promise’ but the intricate track also turns the lens on the protagonist.
Bruce Springsteen – The Promise
3. ‘The River’ (‘The River’, 1980)
A majority of Springsteen’s best moments are crafted around a sense of fantasy but the title track to his fifth album was inspired by his younger sister and the difficulties she faced in raising Bruce’s nephew. A slow, sparse ballad, ‘The River’ is driven by a haunting sense of lament and sees Springsteen at his most arresting.
Bruce Springsteen – The River
2. ‘The Ghost Of Tom Joad’ (‘The Ghost Of Tom Joad’, 1995)
Taken from Springsteen’s second all-acoustic album, ‘The Ghost Of Tom Joad’ sees Springsteen re-enter the world of political anthems with quiet fury. Using the protagonist from John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and taking aim at American capitalism, it’s one of Springsteen’s heaviest hitters. If you needed further proof, check out Rage Against The Machine’s take on the track.
Bruce Springsteen – The Ghost Of Tom Joad
1. ‘Dancing In The Dark’ (‘Born In The USA’, 1984)
Kickstarting Springsteen’s second breakthrough moment, the joyous ‘Dancing In The Dark’ was actually written about his frustration at creating songs that would please people but it looks like he had the last laugh. A sax-driven ‘80s belter, ‘Dancing In The Dark’ is a sure-fire hit that hasn’t lost any of its feel good immediacy over the past 40 years.
Dancing in the Dark. Bruce Springsteen on stage with an audience member at the Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, in 1984.
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