Happy Birthday, Bruce!


One of my favourite musicians, Bruce Springsteen, celebrates his 60th birthday today. I’ve been a big fan of his music ever since I bought Born in the USA on tape sometime in the late 1980s. I played it quite a lot (it didn’t have much competition back then) and it’s still one of my favourites of his. Soon after, I bought the rest of his albums on cassette, including the Live ’75-’85 box set. I’ve been to see him live in concert on two occasions and he was brilliant both times. You haven’t lived unless you’ve seen Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band in action. They’re on stage a lot longer than most bands and they play with a lot of fun, energy, and skill. Not only is he an amazing performer, but he’s also a wonderful songwriter. However, he’s been criticised for singing lots of songs about cars and girls, but that’s only half the story. I love songs like Born to Run and Thunder Road in which he creates scenes and characters that could come straight out of a movie. I also like his story songs such as The River and Highway Patrolman and other songs on the Nebraska album. Nebraska along with Darkness on the Edge of Town are my favourite Springsteen albums, even though they don’t necessarily contain his best songs. I think that he released his best work in the first half of his career and that his albums from the last twenty years, even though they contain great songs, are not among his best work

He has been a huge influence on subsequent generations of musicians, particularly in the United States. He can be held responsible for Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell album, which basically ripped off his Born to Run LP, as well as the career of fellow New Jersey “rockers” Bon Jovi. Contemporary bands like Arcade Fire, The Killers and The Hold Steady owe him a huge debt of gratitude. A diverse range of singers have tackled his songs over the years and I’ve included some of my favourite versions below. Patti Smith took an unreleased Springsteen song and re-worked it into an early hit for her as a singer and for him as a songwriter. Ben E King, Eddie Vedder and Josh Ritter contribute nice versions of a trio of tracks from Bruce’s first decade in music. The Hold Steady and The National offer their takes on a track each from Nebraska, while the Chromatics, Florence Welch and Tegan & Sara give a female voice to songs from Born in the USA, as does Bell X1 from Ireland. The few British acts that attempt songs by The Boss do a good job (Elvis Costello, Camera Obsura, The Waterboys) and they add to earlier efforts by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and one of the first covers of a Springsteen song by David Bowie. This mix of Springsteen covers concludes with moving versions of his songs by three singers who have shuffled off this mortal coil

Covering the Boss

01 Because The Night – Patti Smith

02 Born to Run – Frankie Goes to Hollywood

03 Independence Day – The Waterboys

04 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) – Ben E King

05 No Retreat, No Surrender – Bell X1

06 Thunder Road – Badly Drawn Boy

07 Tougher Than The Rest – Camera Obscura

08 I’m Going Down – Florence Welch & Kid Harpoon

09 Dancing in the Dark – Tegan & Sara

10 I’m On Fire – The Chromatics

11 It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City – David Bowie

12 Atlantic City – The Hold Steady

13 Mansion On The Hill – The National

14 The River – Josh Ritter

15 Growin’ Up – Eddie Vedder

16 Brilliant Disguise – Elvis Costello

17 If I Should Fall Behind – Grant McLennan

18 Highway Patrolman – Johnny Cash

19 Racing In The Streets – Townes Van Zandt

Finally, here are a few tunes sung by The Boss himself as well as two that have been inspired by his songs. A slowed-down solo version of one of his most famous songs is followed by his live cover of a Warren Zevon song. His take on Dylan’s I Want You from the mid-seventies sees Dylan return the favour a decade later. Bob takes lead vocals on the Travelling Wilburys’ Tweeter & the Monkey Man, which contains the titles of a number of Springsteen’s songs in its lyric. How many can you spot? Prefab Sprout’s Cars & Girls cleverly pokes fun at Broocie’s apparent preoccupation with automobiles and the opposite sex in many of his songs. Many of his best songs do indeed concern these subjects but, fortunately, his songs are also about much more than that. Happy 60th, Bruce!

Born To Run (Live Acoustic) – Bruce Springsteen

My Ride`s Here (Warren Zevon cover) – Bruce Springsteen

I Want You (Dylan cover) – Bruce Springsteen

Tweeter And The Monkey Man – Travelling Wilburys

Cars And Girls (Peel Session) – Prefab Sprout

More Springsteen covers at Cover Lay Down


7 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Bruce!

  1. Pingback: 100 Not Out « Town Full of Losers

  2. Thank you for your comment, Caryn. I do not use “took” here in a negative sense. Bruce and Patti had been working next door to each other at Record Plant Studios in New York while recording Darkness on the Edge of Townand Easter, respectively. They swapped tapes and Patti took Because the Night (with Bruce’s blessing) and re-worked it by adapting the tune and adding lyrics. An official version by The Boss did not appear until the release of the Live ’75-’85 album. Even though Springsteen was more well-known in 1978 and Born to Run had been a Top Ten album, he would not have a US top 20 hit single until 1980 with Hungry Heart. Because the Night was Smith’s first and only single to make the US Top 40, peaking at #13 in 1978. A year earlier, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s version of Blinded By the Light became the first, and still only, Springsteen song to make #1 on the Billboard 100. And in 1979, the Pointer Sisters made it to #2 with their version of Fire, another song written by Bruce

  3. . Patti Smith took an unreleased Springsteen song and re-worked it into an early hit for her as a singer and for him as a songwriter.

    Sorry to correct you, but you’re wrong on “Because the Night”. Bruce gave that song to her, and at the time, he was the more ‘commercial’ success. She created her own stellar version, don’t get me wrong, but he was hardly a nobody who needed her help – let’s remember, it was in 1978, after Born To Run, after he had been on the covers of Time and Newsweek, and everyone was eagerly waiting for BTR’s followup, while he was mired in 1) lawsuits and 2) the studio.

    She regularly thanks him for giving that song to her. It’s never the other way around.

  4. You’re welcome, Kid. Springsteen’s influence is quite obvious in the music of the Hold Steady, so it’s not too surprising that they’ve done a cover. Josh Ritter’s is a great live version of a song that hasn’t been done by too many people

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