Bob Seger's career trajectory nearly mirrors Bruce Springsteen's, his main competition in the late-'70s for the heartland-rock audience. Both singer-songwriters started in the late-'60s in garage bands that made their livings, and local reputations, in bars. Both grew up on '60s soul, which they incorporated into their own music. And both were given time by their record companies to develop into major artists. But Seger charted first ("Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" reached No. 17 in 1968) and has a No. 1 hit (the terrible "Shakedown" from 1987's Beverly Hills Cop II). Springsteen never got higher than No. 2. We're not saying we'd choose Seger over Springsteen, but his best tracks hold up against the Boss'. Here are our Top 10 Bob Seger Songs.
'Sunspot Baby'From: 'Night Moves' (1976)
Before he became a heartland rocker, Seger was a garage-rock belter who had a thing for the Detroit soul music that was all around him in the '60s. "Sunspot Baby" combines both of those influence plus adds Stones-style crunch to the mix. The result is one of this album's best songs and a classic-rock favorite that swings on a truly funky piano riff.
'Still the Same'From: 'Stranger in Town' (1978)
Following the breakout success of 1976's Night Moves, Seger returned two years later with an album that pretty much stuck to the winning formula of classic heartland rock occasionally punctuated by R&B horns. But Stranger in Town's lead single shuffles along a mid-tempo country rhythm, with acoustic guitars driving the melody. Like Night Moves' title track, it made it all the way to No. 4.
'Beautiful Loser'From 'Beautiful Loser' (1975)
A year before he officially christened the Silver Bullet Band, Seger used many of its members on his eighth album. Night Moves' seeds are planted on Beautiful Loser: the gently rocking country lilt, the heartland rasp, the vivid portraits of working-class hardship. The title track just missed the Top 100, stalling at No. 103. A little more than a year later, Seger would be in the Top 10.
'Katmandu'From 'Beautiful Loser' (1975)
Like many cuts on Beautiful Loser (see No. 8 on our list of the Top 10 Bob Seger Songs), the Chuck Berry-ripped "Katmandu" is basically a setup for the massive success that would swarm over Seger the next year. This one rocks hard. We prefer the studio version of "Katmandu," but feel free to substitute the killer concert take from 1976's Live Bullet.
'Rock and Roll Never Forgets'From: 'Night Moves' (1976)
After one minor hit and almost a decade of pounding away in the trenches, most guys would have called it quits and found steady employment in a factory. Not Bob Seger. Following a lukewarm career that finally began yielding results in 1975, Seger charged back hard on his ninth album and was rewarded with his first Top 10 album and single. This tough rocker – a somewhat autobiographical call to arms – kicks off the album with no-prisoners purpose.
'Turn the Page'From: 'Live Bullet' (1976)
"Turn the Page" first appeared on Seger's forgettable Back in '72 album. But it got a new life on 1976's Live Bullet, which introduced the Silver Bullet Band and prepped Seger for the breakout Night Moves album later in the year. Seger's classic tale of road life – memorably covered by Metallica in 1998 – was made for the stage, and this slow-building live recording is filled with drama and emotion. The audience pays it back, hanging on Seger's words until the song's final release. A concert classic.
'Old Time Rock & Roll'From: 'Stranger in Town' (1978)
If Tom Cruise's underwear dance scene in Risky Business didn't ruin "Old Time Rock & Roll" for you, then an old relative trying to dance to it at a wedding reception surely has. But back when it came out in 1978, Seger's ode to the old-school rock 'n' roll records that shaped his youth, and his own music, sounded like a heartfelt, if somewhat pandering, tribute. But like we said, Tom Cruise or your Uncle Steve probably killed those thoughts years ago.
'Ramblin' Gamblin' Man'From: 'Ramblin' Gamblin' Man' (1969)
Seger's first chart hit, which preceded the same-titled album by the Bob Seger System by a few months, features a garage-rock stomp that wouldn't sound out of place on the Nuggets compilation. "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" hit No. 17; Seger didn't reach the Top 40 again until 1976, when Night Moves made him a star (see No. 1 on our list of the Top 10 Bob Seger Songs). By the way, that's future Eagles star Glenn Frey on acoustic guitar and backing vocals.
'Against the Wind'From: 'Against the Wind' (1980)
Seger's third album with the Silver Bullet Band, and his only No. 1, somewhat stumbles under the weight of its aspirations. Unlike its predecessors, Against the Wind dials down the heartland rock in favor of more laid-back grooves and meditative songs. As he approached his 35th birthday, Seger looks back on mistakes, regrets and struggles. The title track is one of the few songs that gets it exactly right.
'Night Moves' From: 'Night Moves' (1976)
Giving co-billing to the Silver Bullet Band, a few members of which backed him on Beautiful Loser, Seger shaped Night Moves like Bruce Springsteen was molding the E Street Band and his own career. And the slice-of-life title track is ripped from Springsteen's playbook. But Seger adds a slight twang and perspective to his nostalgic tale of teenage lust and growing up in the early '60s. It's a pivotal song in his long career and his first Top 5 hit.