Top 10 Bruce Springsteen Songs
Four decades after the release of his debut album, Bruce Springsteen still finds meaning in the dreams and struggles of America’s working class. And even though he’s lost two members of his longtime backing band, he still puts on tirelessly energetic concert performances night after night. In the end, it’s all about the songs. And he has plenty of great ones. But these are the Top 10 Bruce Springsteen Songs.
‘Prove It All Night’
On an album filled with so much fear, anger and loneliness, ‘Prove It All Night’ — a story about two lovers whose chance at a relationship is slipping away — seems to distill everything into a single harrowing tale, complete with a gnarled guitar solo by Springsteen. Unsurprisingly, this dark track stalled at No. 33 on the chart, but it remains a concert favorite.
‘Land of Hope and Dreams’
A gospel-tinged song that had been performed as early as Springsteen’s 1999 reunion tour with the E Street Band, ‘Land of Hopes and Dreams’ echoes the train-ride-to-redemption theme famously outlined in the Impressions’ classic ‘People Get Ready.’ The studio version (from 2012’s ‘Wrecking Ball’) ended up taking on even deeper resonance with the inclusion of late saxophone player Clarence Clemons‘ final solo.
A fever dream of longing framed by Roy Bittan’s delicately conveyed keyboard, Springsteen’s protagonist is fiercely trying to hold on to his life’s initial goals, even as adulthood throws up roadblock after roadblock. ‘Point Blank’ was never released as a single in the U.S., but it still managed to reach No. 20 on the mainstream-rock chart.
‘Born in the U.S.A.’
A complex, often misunderstood look into the searing experience of Vietnam veterans, ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ was one of seven(!) Top 10 hits from the hit album of the same name, tying a record set in 1982 by Michael Jackson. This track turns on the Battle of Khe Sanh, which became a fitting image for the futility of war after the U.S. fought to claim and then ultimately abandoned that stretch of land.
‘Jungleland,’ the nearly 10-minute closing track on Springsteen’s breakthrough effort, depicts love’s struggles against a background of epic violence — illustrated, as much as by the lyrics, via Clarence Clemons’ volcanic sax turn. The song ends with a brutal murder, but by then — in a crushingly sad moment — everyone has become numb to the losses around them.
Springsteen never wrote a more cutting indictment of the way middle-class working people can be driven out of the American Dream than ‘Atlantic City.’ Starkly presented, and filled with gut-punch honesty, the song has remained a key element in the E Street repertoire since its debut on ‘Nebraska’ 30 years ago.
‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out’
Even though ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out’ stalled at No. 83 on the chart, this stomping autobiographical track quickly became a hallmark element of the Springsteen mythos. A punchy horn signature, presented in the classic-soul style that guitarist Steven Van Zandt loves so much, powers this fun retelling of the E Street Band’s formation.
Inspired by the Animals‘ ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,’ ‘Badlands’ — once again outlining the thoughts and fears of a down-on-his-luck protagonist (see several other tracks on our list of the Top 10 Bruce Springsteen Songs) — showcases the classic E Street Band in all of its power and glory, beginning with Max Weinberg’s thunderous back beat. There’s a good reason this cut has so often served as Springsteen’s concert opener.
A thematic companion piece to ‘Born to Run’ (see No. 1 on our list of the Top 10 Bruce Springsteen Songs), this soaring album-opening cut follows a similar narrative but gets there in an entirely different way. Beginning and ending with moments of quiet reverie, ‘Thunder Road’ builds to a moment of determined hopefulness in between, symbolized by the unforgettable image of Springsteen running into Clarence Clemons’ arms onstage during countless shows in the 1980s.
‘Born to Run’
An accurate reflection, if nothing else, of Springsteen’s period as a struggling artist, ‘Born to Run’ has, over the years, transformed into a universally adored underdog anthem. It’s also the clearest distillation of the young singer-songwriter’s passion for Phil Spector’s legendary Wall of Sound style of production. Springsteen is said to have layered in as many as 11 guitars to accomplish this track’s sweeping sound.