Bruce Springsteen’s music has expanded over the course of 40 years from heartland rock bangers to slow, acoustic ballads. As one of the most successful performers of all time, his music has appealed to and inspired fans of many ages because of the lyrics we can all relate to on some level to his enthusiastic, energetic, never-ending four hour performances. Although it is nearly impossible to compile a list of the Top 5 songs ever recorded by Bruce Springsteen that the majority of fans can agree with, I have made my own personal list.
1. Born to Run
This one needs no introduction. As Springsteen’s most famous and recognizable hit, this song tells the story of getting out of Springsteen’s hometown of Freehold, NJ, chasing a girl named Wendy, and exploring life. As the title suggests, Bruce is “Born to Run,” or ready to explore life as a young adult. The anthem as become a staple at Springsteen concerts, having been performed since 1974.
Characterized by the recognizable drum intro and saxophone solo in the middle, this song is often the opener at Springsteen concerts. Like other classic songs from Bruce’s catalog, the lyrics describe middle class life and frustrations in America. “Poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king, and a king ain’t satisfied, ‘til he rules everything.” At concerts, audience members often pump their fists in the air to the chorus “Bad-lands” and moan “oooohhhh ooooh” along with Bruce during the slower parts in the middle of the song.
3. Born in the USA
Sometimes the hardest thing to do as an American is criticize your own country, but that is exactly what Springsteen does in this track, which also shares a name with its album. Often mistaken as a nationalistic, proud-to-be an American anthem, “Born in the USA” is a criticism of the Vietnam War, addressing both the soldiers who never made it back, as well as the veterans experiencing troubles once they returned home. Still, the song is enjoyed by many today as a way to bring Americans and other people together.
4. The Rising
The mark of an amazing songwriter is the ability to write a song about a specific story, but have it represent a larger theme. On the title track of Springsteen’s 2002 album, the Boss tells a story about a firefighter climbing the World Trade Center on 9/11. Despite this sad story, the firefighter represents hope and courage. The song has become an anthem of hope and courage for many over the years, including an official campaign song used by Barack Obama in 2008. Perhaps the famous “la la la la la la la la” repeated chorus is what uplifts everyone.
5. We Take Care of Our Own
I had to include one of Bruce’s more contemporary songs on this list. From the 2009 album, “Wrecking Ball,” Springsteen’s anti-Wall Street album, this anthem is about American commonality and taking care of each other in hard times. The Boss keeps reminding us that we are more similar than different, and there is reason to be hopeful in the future. It is no surprise this song was used during Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Presidential campaign as an entrance song for his rallies.
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