Our January 2018 SolutionReads book is Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography “Born to Run.” We had a great time discussing the book yesterday on Facebook Live, so be sure to check out our discussion about the book and some of the cool things we discussed about how it relates to our worlds beyond the music (you can watch that here).
So why blog about it too? Well, I’ll be darned if we’re going to read about a musician without an accompanying playlist, and the blog’s a perfect place to occasionally share something a little on the lighter side. So here are the 10 songs I’d use as a starting point to convince someone of the power of the Boss. I purposely stayed away from the megahits, but for every song I included there are five more I left out. Feel free to respond and comment and tell me why I’ve made the wrong choice. It’s an argument I’d love to have!
Here’s a Spotify playlist link if that works better for you.
“Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)”
What lunatic starts a playlist with a seven-minute song? Sacrilege! But Springsteen regularly puts on 3+-hour marathon shows, so I’m giving myself a pass here. We’re in this for the long haul from the opening guitar lick. I love the epic feel of Rosalita, and someday when you and I meet face-to-face, I’ll tell you a funny story about the time I saw him play this at the Bonnaroo festival. The story requires me to act it out. I promise you’ll be entertained.
Really, you could have put the first four tracks from “The River” into a hat and drawn at random, and I would have been happy with the result. But since playlists are made to be quirky, let’s have a song with “Two” in the title in the second spot. Agree? Good. For the record (music pun!), this song would have also worked well as a first track.
“Into the Fire”
This is my favorite song from “The Rising,” which is the first album that I remember touching on the 9/11 tragedy. No way I can sum all of that up in this paragraph, but I feel strongly that the whole album is worth your time. From a musical standpoint, it does more to remind me of those events than any other album. As for “Into the Fire” itself, I love the repetitive “may your ______ give us ______” line in the chorus as tribute to the firefighters and servicemen and women who showed extreme bravery in a tragic time.
I don’t know how to play piano, but when I finally do learn, this is the kind of song I want to be able to play. I’m not interested in playing super-technical classical pieces – just let me be able to slam out stuff like this one from Springsteen’s debut album.
It’s not a Springsteen playlist without some live Bruce. That concert experience is half of the legend! I chose this one because it’s the first Springsteen song I can remember hearing, though I’m 99% sure I unknowingly heard many before it. This was on the USA for Africa “We Are the World” benefit album I had as a kid, and I thought it was awesome. Years later, I learned he didn’t even write the song.
“Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”
If we’re treating a 10-song playlist like a Side A and Side B of a record (and we are), then this 1975 recording is a great way to start Side B. Another live staple that always reminds me of what a great drummer Max Weinberg is, even though he’s not playing anything difficult here. There’s probably a lesson in this performance that simpler is sometimes better. You can decide that for yourself.
“I’m on Fire”
It feels like only a slight exaggeration to say the “Born in the USA” album had 72 Top 10 hits. But…Wikipedia is giving me a more realistic number of seven, so let’s go with that. “I’m on Fire” was the fourth one from the album. This one was released in 1984 and definitely sounds “of its time” but in a good way. Synthesizer abounds.
This one’s from the stark and haunting “Nebraska” album – an album he recorded in his own home for about $1,000. I think I actually like the cover version by The Band better than Springsteen’s, but he still gets tons of love from me for writing it in the first place. I love lyrics like these that can be as deep and layered as you want them to be: “Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact. But maybe everything that dies someday comes back.”
“The E Street Shuffle”
This song has the dubious honor of being the Springsteen song I’ve heard the most while shutting my kids around town. They like this one a lot. Probably because it’s just fun, and it truly sounds like the band is having fun playing it. Attitude and energy can take a song a long way, and “The E Street Shuffle” no doubt benefits from that.
It’s on the list not for any deep or meaningful reason – I just like the way it sounds. And the band performs it with 100% passion. It’s a hard choice, but I think this is my single favorite Springsteen song. Nah, it’s “Rosalita.” Start again from the beginning.
Do you love Springsteen? Share your favorite songs in the comments. Rock on!