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Is “Born to Run” the Best Song Ever Written?

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Sometimes it is hard to imagine that there was a time when Bruce Springsteen actually meant anything. That there was really a time when he stood, at least in the abstract, for something; especially something musically significant. I know he is a rich liberal that many politicians on the left like to solicit donations from. I know he is a slightly less aggravating American version of the patronizing and overtly political U2 frontman Bono. But how long has it been since musically, sonically, and historically Bruce Springsteen has been relevant?

Sure, he stood up to the modern world, hitched up his jeans and asked: "57 Channels (and Nothin’ on)?" But for the most part, to younger generations he is the progenitor of a misunderstood, yet explicitly inward-looking, mid-American ethos — characterized by his album Born in the U.S.A. — an ethos that is now championed by car-commercial patriots like Toby Keith and (unfortunately) John Mellencamp.

Bruce Springsteen though, has authored albums that stand alone in the American canon: the defiantly lonely Nebraska, the messy, spoilt-broth masterpiece The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle and the singularly thrilling Born to Run — a magical love letter to the (often vehicular) romance of a dirt-poor, greasy, and romantic youth which has, as its title track, the spine tingling piece de resistance of the Springsteen catalogue: the magnificent "Born to Run."

Greil Marcus famously said that Born to Run was a ’57 Chevy that ran on melted Crystals records. And obviously Springsteen had sixties hot rod muscle on his mind, as he brilliantly conflated the Phil Spector-inspired Wall of Sound with James Dean-mumbled sensitivity and a Dylanesque scope of Americana, making "Born to Run" a sonically intense epic reading of a mythic and lost American youth.

Today though, Springsteen is bloated, happy, and well-heeled; a brand name and a corporate entity unto himself. He is not that lean and hungry boy that he once was. With his oversized hat, youthful scraggly beard, and tank top, he seemed such an outsider. He was just another gauche kid from New Jersey. Now, with his rich and paunchy tucked-in middle section and pasty fiftyish face he is The Boss (of what, I do not know).

He was though once a hungry and beautiful kid, the impoverished New Jersey street poet as Dickensian wastrel; and a kinder, gentler version of the intensely crabby Bob Dylan. Springsteen was also a Telecaster-wielding conductor of an East Coast rock orchestra that was as tight a live act that ever sweated over a crowded throng, and he only canceled shows when he was so worn out he was reduced to vomiting blood. Bruce Springsteen was once the real thing.

"Born to Run" starts with a minimally epic and iconic opening. Mixing in a simple saxophone run and bare-bones glockenspiel-sounding keyboard, the band wastes little time getting to the meat of Springsteen’s grim narrative:

In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway 9,
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected and steppin out over the line
Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while were young
`cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run

The song is beautifully literate, a kind of sweeping and inglorious tale informed by the kind of depression-era songs and novels made famous by Woodie Guthrie and Edward Anderson; stories about beautiful small towns, or country losers just trying to hold on to something. And it is about cars — or as Bruce Springsteen so beautifully puts them: suicide machines and for the futurist-minded: hemi-powered drones.

Though I am not a fan of Clarence Clemmons, his seventeen-second-sax solo is seamless, a bit busy but not at all out of place or incongruous like the saxophone can often be in rock and roll after say Exile on Main Street.

After Springsteen delivers the fatalistically romantic line “I wanna die with you Wendy on the streets tonight in an everlasting kiss,” the song lurches into its iconic breakdown, perhaps the most famous of all breakdowns for it seems as if it will never end. And then, the barely audible but spine-tingling nonetheless: “1, 2, 3, 4,” is uttered, followed by the last stanza of his nihilistically romantic hot-rod fantasy:

The highways jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive
Everybody’s out on the run tonight but there’s no place left to hide
Together Wendy we’ll live with the sadness
I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul
Someday girl I don’t know when we’re gonna get to that place
Where we really want to go and well walk in the sun
But till then tramps like us baby we were born to run.

Both lyrically and sonically, "Born to Run" is a masterpiece; it is the most economical four and a half minutes of rock and roll that I will ever hear. Like any great writer, Bruce Springsteen created an alternate universe — in this case an almost futuristic past that is narrowly drawn and beautifully rendered.

I don’t know what the best song ever written is, nobody does. Perhaps it’s The Rolling Stones' "Little T & A," or Guided By Voices’ "Peep Hole," or The Beatles’ "I’m Only Sleeping." Maybe it's Chuck Berry’s "Memphis," or The Ronettes’ "Do I Love You?," or The Flamin’ Groovies’ "You Tore me Down," perhaps The Kinks’ "Come Dancing," or "96 Tears" by ? and the Mysterians. I suppose that those songs represent just an ultra-slim fraction of the candidates. "Born to Run" though has to be, at the very least, considered one of the greatest songs ever written and recorded. It is a miraculous thing of beauty that gives one the chills upon each listen.

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About Bryan Price

  • Farty Fartsalot

    Hardcore Springsteen fan here. The best? Nah. But is it one of the greatest rock songs of all time? Absolutely.

  • USA LOUDSquall

    It’s kind of astounding how little of the point you get, how 3 pages barely scratches the surface of what makes the song great. Actually, it barely says anything other than “this song is really good.” None of the subtlety is captured.

    Not to mention how much of it you spend more or less attacking the person you consider the writer of the greatest song ever.

    Springsteen remained relevant into the early 90’s, though he’s continued being excellent for his entire career.

  • Gina

    It’s not the best,but it can easily enter top 15

  • Paul

    Is Born to run the greatest song ever written? Of course its subjective, and there cant ever be one single greatest song, but Born to Run would be as good a candidate for the top slot as any. I’ve never felt so much emotion in a song.

  • Steve Howe

    What about “Growin Up”? Or even that whole album? (Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ)? it’s pretty messy, too, but man, does it have some gems.

  • Me

    It is… for me. No song ever has touched me like BTR… everytime, everywhere…

  • JSUK

    You can’t discuss the question of the greatest song without considering ‘Born to Run’. Bruce carries so much feeling and empathy with those words that it’s easy to identify and feel with the characters. It’s also timeless – a troubled teen hearing it now would surely relate to the narrator and Wendy. I don’t think Bruce has ever topped this, maybe Dylan has but it’s doubtful.

  • bryan adams

    its shit compared to run to you

  • Scott

    All I want to say is that I’m glad to have a man who is a great artist and story teller showing us baby boomers how to grow old gracefully. As I near 50, I grew up with Springsteen’s music. No one before or since has his vision and story telling abilities. His live shows are legendary. My Father passed away just one month ago, I played “You’re Missing” at his service and it touched everyone there.
    As for some of the negative comments and personal attacks, I guess it’s just human nature to scorn someone with millions of devoted fans in an effort to make yourself sound important, knowing there would be a huge uproar to follow.
    If Bruce has taught us nothing, it’s that we need to rise above the people who would drag us down. If he were to never record another song, his place in Rock and Roll History is secure. A living, breathing icon still challenging himself and his listeners to keep going, keep looking for some happiness in this world.
    Thank you Mr. Springsteen.

  • Sean Collins-SMith

    First of all, to #64 – great writing, great points, great execution. That was just as well written as the article which these responses are aimed toward. I’m glad there is someone who shares my love for good grammar and well-written arguments.

    “Born to Run” is a great song, an amazing song. As a Bruce fan of more than 9 years (I am the ripe old age of 19), I have to admit that I find just about anything he does to be pretty darn special.

    But I have to say that I think his Born to Run album-opener “Thunder Road” is slightly better. It is so sweeping and full of imagery with its lyrics (“There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away/they haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burned out chevrolets”). His Live 75-85 album has an amazing solo version of this song, and I get chills every time I hear it.

    I, too, believe that he is still relevant. I saw Price withdraw his statement, so I won’t delve into bitter rants or distasteful dialogue (not that I would anyway, since I have witnessed first hand how stupid it makes you sound).

    Springsteen is just…Springsteen. His voice is scraggly (which many hate), his politics lean toward the left (which some people hate), and his most famous (not most loved, but most famous) song is a highly misunderstood anthem which many see to be nothing more than an American-praising propaganda parade.

    But for the lovers of classic rock’n’roll (of which i will always be), he is an amazing artist, extraordinary not only in his ability to give his characters life and purpose, but to give his audience a clear picture of what that life and purpose is:

    Someday girl I don’t know when we’re gonna get to that place
    Where we really want to go and well walk in the sun
    But till then tramps like us baby we were born to run.

  • JerseyBoy

    And Bob Dylan should be crucified for standing up for Rubin Carter, Hattie Carroll, and Hollis Brown, all African-Americans who were victims of America’s justice system. Some of you people should educate yourself so you don’t make yourself look like an idiot.

  • STM

    Bryan Price wrote: “here’s old guys holding it together in the new millenium: thee headcoats”

    Try for diversion some of Billy Childish’s other bands … The Pop Rivets, The Milkshakes, Thee Mighty Caesars, Delmonas and Natural Born Lovers. The Buff Medways are the latest incarnaration – the name comes from a chicken once bred in Kent (England) that some local chicken fancier friends of the band were trying to re-breed in Chatham, where Childish lives.

    I assume the chook fanciers didn’t have much luck and gave their name to the band instead. But it’s still classic Childish and worth a listen.

  • Aaron

    Every new band seems to be paying homage to Bruce. His influence is everywhere – The Killers, Hold Steady, Arcade Fire. “Born to Run” is the album fueling the inspiration. My guess is they caught the Hammersmith show and were left speechless.

  • Maybe I shouldn’t have said, he should have hung it up, I mean, the Fall have put out some seminal albums, and I think they were really good for a long time, which is pretty good because most bands flame out relatively quickly. it’s just that with a band like that, if you’re not a super fan, you just kind of tune out after a while. but i listened to that album last night, and it was good, but there was no “the classical” or “totally wired” or “leave the capitol” or “before the moon falls” there is no truly great Fall song that stands out. I don’t know, it’s his prerogative to hang it up or not, not mine. so more power to him.

  • zingzing

    dude. real new fall l.p. is grand. heads roll? got a few great tunes on it, i must say.

    narnack has got some great shit on the label.

    will check out thee headcoats. anyone with “thee” must have heard some throbbing gristle.

    gotta love the fall, though, even when they suck. have you heard any of the new stuff? he’s got an american band now… tis rather worrying. in some way.

    when, in your opinion, should they have hung it up?

  • I have it right here in my hands, on baby blue vinyl if you must know, but i just don’t like it.

    It’s not the kind of significant departure that marks the gulf between, say, born to run and 41 shots, but I am just not in to it.

    I’ve had it since it came out and, I don’t know. it certainly doesn’t stack up against hip priest or dragnet or hex enduction hour. that’s just me, i know, but…

    i at least respect Mark e. smith for holding it together, and being in love with it, because his records must sell nothing, I mean Narnack records? And his touring must barely pay the rent, not like some other guys who just shamelessly rip off fans during their tours.

    here’s old guys holding it together in the new millenium:

    thee headcoats

    now that’s rock and roll.


  • zingzing

    meh. go buy “the real new fall l.p.-a.k.a. country on the click” and tell me different. rock n roll, baby.

  • If you say so.

  • zingzing

    the fall never change “at their core,” as their “core” is mark e. smith. and actually, their last couple of albums have been amongst their best. new album out soon, as it always is.

    “the fall-always the same, always different.” or is it, “the fall-always different, always the same”-john peel… makes no difference.

    and the scott walker film is interesting. yep. “the drift” is amazing.

  • Firstly, I want to say that I didn’t read any of your comments. I simply had to drop in after I saw the title. Y’all know me, I am a music guy first and foremost. I don’t even own a single Springsteen record, but the answer is YES.

    Born to Run is the best song ever written

    I do not make statements like that lightly, I assure you.

  • believe me. I’m all for off-topic.

  • Clara

    slightly off topic, but since he was brought up… Scott Walker film


  • I don’t know if the Fall have “changed drastically at their core” but it seems like a band that has put out so many albums had changed quite a bit between, even, say Grotesque and The Frenz Experiment. I’ve always thought that Witch Trials with Martin Bramah on guitar and Dragnet which featured Craig Scanlon were pretty different, and though I like the Blue Orchids, and love the Fall, I don’t particularly care for Witch Trials.

    As far as Tom Waits goes. People seem to love him or think that he sounds like the Muppet band.

    as far as old rockers are concerned though, I tend to feel that it may be time for Mark E. Smith to hang it up.

  • two choices, i think: either Alice…or just go for broke and pick up Orphans, probably the best ‘leftovers’ collection i’ve ever heard.

  • zingzing

    maybe i do need to give him another chance. everyone seems to like him… i mean, one of my favorite bands is the fall… and if i can levy those charges against tom waits, why do i like the fall so much? if they changed drastically at their core, i would have a problem with that… i dunno. it’s all taste, i suppose.

  • oh gawd. Franks Wild Years sounds nothing like Rain Dogs….and Bone Machine is a big change from Franks.

    and the Black Rider doesn’t sound like anything else..

    ah forget it. you’ve stopped listening.

  • zingzing

    oh, i don’t hate him. in fact, he’s a pretty good songwriter. but he presented himself the same exact way from swordfish all the way to mule, which is when i lost interest. i actually like the sound… but i got bored with him. he just stopped growing.

  • Michael

    You didn’t offend .. and I’m sure you’re not the only one who thinks Waits is a hack – just as I’m sure there are 10 million people who hate Bruce. Opinions are opinions. It’s only fair that we can speak our mind just as artists can speak theirs.

    Thanks for the post..

  • Michael

    Actually.. John brings up a good point. I guess if Bruce were truly irrelevant, this would have been a very very short thread.

  • zingzing

    i was stating an opinion myself. sorry. didn’t mean to offend. let me restate: “in my opinion, scott walker is as relevant an “aging rocker” as bruce springsteen. in all actuality, i find him to be artistically superior to tom waits, who, in my opinion, is a hack.”

  • Michael

    Yes ZingZing.. Scott Walker is good

    I was just stating my opinion and opinions, by their very nature, are subjective. Thank you for correcting me, though. We should all preface our remarks with a disclaimer.

  • stonepony

    While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I guess I would hope they would at least have their facts right. “41 shots” is not “anti cop” and Bruce certainly isn’t “anti-American.” I share the opinion that a cop who actually says “he should be shot” is part of the problem, not the solution. Oh yeah, “the Rising” was written is response to an outcry asking for his help and not as someone who took advantage of a situation (hard to believe someone can say with a straight face that Bruce would be happy or caused the 9/11 tragedy. Probably friends with the cop mentioned above). Bruce’s music has kept me great company during my life. His music helped me through personal loss and through moments of triumph and anticipation. While Born to Run isn’t the grreatest song ever written, Thunder Road is, it would be the song I’d have played while leaving the dugout heading to the plate to pump me up.

  • John

    Wow! Such a thread for an irrelevant singer ! So irrelevant that a police officer (and his wife) does want him shot because he wrote a song ! That a R. takes out the 9/11 conspiracy theory and includes Springsteeen in it.

    Born to Run is one of the best song ever, one thas always gives me the bumps. And I do agree with Bryan about the records Bruce is putting out now. But his shows still are the best!

    Maybe Springsteen has never been as much relevant as he was with 41 Shots (American Skin). Before 41 Shots, I never thought of the anguish of police officers facing a guy who might has well put a gun as put a wallet out of his pocket and a fracton of a second to make up your mind. As much as felt for the mother, I used to feel for these police officers praying for Diallo’s life. But from what I read here and from what I heard in the days following “41 Shots”, Bruce and I were probably phantazising. It seems too leftist or too Christian to think that they would have prayed for the guy’s life. How could you pray for Dialo’s life and wish the singer to be shot? But maybe they are not one and the same.

    Great post, Bryan!


  • Megan

    I am a huge Born to Run fan, but I think Bruce is just as good now as he was then. He will always be superb. As long as he is full of passion for playing, he will be great. He is not even comparable to anyone at his age. Bruce has not died out since Born to Run. I heard he and the E Street Band our getting back together this year to make an album. He is genius. That will be exciting!

  • zingzing

    michael: “The only other “aging rocker” that can match him is Tom Waits.”

    scott walker.

  • Brian

    Springsteen is absolutely relevant. Just ask the endless stream of young bands/artists now bowing down and confessing to his influence: The Killers, Hold Steady, Death Cab for a Cutie, Rage Against the Machine, Pete Yorn, Badly Drawn Boy, Keane and on and on. He’s getting older, but.. you can’t hold that against him. Sure.. you used to able to say (as Prefab Sprout once did) that Brucie likes to write about cars and girls, but then this new Boss isn’t your Father’s Boss. “Devils and Dust” was a literate masterpiece. The tour was amazing. The Seeger Session album/tour blew me away – and I hate folk music. I remember seeing him do a gospel version of Jacob’s Ladder with a New Orleans twist and thinking “unreal”.

    Hey.. if you think Springsteen is just the “Born in the USA” 80’s guy and/or you didn’t like some of his folk turns, well.. I understand. You don’t see what these young bands do, though. When he was young, he was this incredibly romantic street poet with Van Morrison as his Muse. He was one of the greatest live artists in the history of rock. What is he today? He’s a hugely influential guy with an incredible back catalog who is still (as someone said) growing and evolving as an artist.

    How much more “relevant” do you need to be?

  • Jocking, amen.

  • jocking

    I can’t remember so many comments that appear to be written by ignorant morons.

    “All the cops hate him.” Indeed, the head of the NYC police officer’s union called Springsteen a “queer cop hater” before he had even heard the song (41 shots (American Skin) was debuted in Atlanta the week before Springsteen began playing 10 already sold out shows in Madison Square Garden). The song’s meaning is unclear. If you want to hear criticism of the officers, you can. If you want to hear empathy for them, that’s there, too. If you want to feel sorry for the innocent victim and his family, who was shot 19 times in what is hard for me to conceive as other than, at best, incompetent over reaction, the song can evoke those feelings. If you want to feel sorry for the officers and the difficulties they face daily, and the guilt they’ll have to deal with the rest of your lives, that’s in the song, as well. The song refects the ambiguity of the situtation the four police offers faced that night in 1999, when they shot 41 times at an unarmed African emigrant who had reached for his wallet in an effort to identify himself to four police officers who, once they began shooting, didn’t stop until their guns were empty.

    The person who said the officers were “vindicated” at trial misunderstands fundamentally the meaning of a “not gulty,” verdict. The verdict in no way “vindicates” the act of shooting an unarmed man 19 times. It means that the State was unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to twelve of the officer’s peers that they intented to kill Mr. Diablo(?). The fact the City settled a civil trial for three million dollars suggests strongly that these officers were far from vindicated. You don’t give away three million dollars prior to the civil trial even commencing when your officers have been “vindicated.”

    The person who asked, “what gives Springsteen the right [to write about this incident]?” is truly amazing. The first Amendment of the Constitution of the United States gives him the right to write about this or anything he choses. Would you take this right away from Springsteen, or anyone, who writes what you don’t care to read or hear?

    The police officer who says “[Springsteen] should be shot,” if it’s really true, is a disgrace and has no business wearing the uniform.

    What are people who have commented that Springsteen is a leftist and unamerican, presumably the same thing, talking about? Is being a vocal critic of the war in Iraq, or publically (in the NY Times) denouncing tax cuts “for fat cat executives and well-to-do guitar players,” leftist and unamerican? Seriously, I’d like to know. Throwing around casually charges like “unamerican” is cowardly McCarthyism, but I doubt the ignorant authors have a clue what this is.

    The comment about Springsteen’s son is contempable, not that being gay is in any way negative, but obviously the homophobic author thinks it is and the comment reveals his bigotry, small mindedness, and ignorance, all wrapped in crude McCarthyistic tactics. I hope your parents are proud.

    Have those who have posted that Springsteen has no talent ever listened to a Springsteen album or attended a concert? I doubt it. Have you? I’m serious.

    The person who says Springsteen has accomplished nothing musically in the 1990s, or later, backs up this claim by stating that he has not had a hit single since 1994, presumable “Streets of Philadelphia.” This is downright funny. That is one sophisticated measure of music quality: number of hit singles. Who are the greats, my friend? Who are the musicians with those number one hit singles whose talent and accomplishments make Springsteen’s pale in comparision?

    I would suggest that the posters who have accomplished nothing in their lives, who fail to understand basic civics, who would censor those with whom they disagree, who criticize blindly without knowing what they are being critical of, should consider remaining silent and running the risk of being suspected fools, rather than typing their thoughts, and removing all doubt.

  • Michael

    Is Springsteen still relevant? Well.. it’s not black and white. In the early 70’s, he was a force. He was as literate as Dylan, but more earthy and approachable. Highly charismatic, cinematic and everything you wanted in a rock star. He was the perfect mix of influences.

    He’s almost in his 60’s now, so.. he’s never going to have the same impact again, no. Yes.. he’s much older. He’s happy. He’s rich. I can’t say I am a huge fan (hated most of the 90’s stuff), but “Devils and Dust” was a beautiful album – poetic, melodic. I’ve been watching some of the clips from that tour on YouTube and.. I think I missed one of the great tours. What I respect about Springsteen today is that he keeps growing and challenging himself. Watch some of the performances from that tour on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean; he reinvented his own catalog. The Seeger Sessions.. did anyone see that coming? I thought.. “Oh, great.. another ‘Tom Joad’ experience”, but.. wow.. it was incredible.

    The only other “aging rocker” that can match him is Tom Waits, but then.. Waits never had the same level of fame. You have to respect that, too. I mean.. Springsteen could get away with so much. I mean.. he’s beloved by millions of adoring fans. While he may not be “Saint Bruce” and many would love it if he stopped pushing his politics, I’m sure he’d be forgiven for most anything. That he doesn’t allow the use of his songs in ads or pander to his fans and is willing to follow his own artistic muse is rare among superstars.

    I tend to listen to newer bands (TV on the Radio, Ryan Adams, My Morning Jacket, etc) .. scouring Pop Matters daily for new tunes, but Springsteen is and was the real deal. Definitely. “Born to Run” was one of the greatest songs of all time – in any genre. It was a masterpiece.

    We’ll see if he keeps challenging himself..

    I hope so. I appreciate the effort.

  • STM

    J.P Spencer wrote: “Let’s put it this way. If you’re an American, who grew up in a factory town, where the factory eventually left the town and you watched the town slowly wither away to an empty shell, “Born To Run” is the best song ever written. For the rest of the world, it’s “God Only Knows” or something.

    Yeah, right JP, ’cause of course, nothing like that ever happens outside the US.

  • STM

    The answer to the question posed by the headline for this story: no, it’s not

  • Jordan

    “I heard, by the way, that his son Evan is gay.”


  • Bryan good job. I’m not one to degrade into name calling but I must say the abyss of ignorance displayed over a singer is shocking. Not only that; the knowledge of music shown by some is tenuous at best. #35 was bang on. So Springsteen hints left. Big deal. One person alluded that if you’re from the factory you get Springsteen. I disagree. Like any great writer he transports you to another time. You can be from the suburbs in Australia and still get him. His themes are often universal. He finds ways to be relevant. And oh yes, ‘Born to Run’ is a majestic song. Back to the surreal show.

  • ardee

    Wow! First off good article. Pushing 50 myself I thought that there was a bit of ageism but that’s been addressed better than I could do it. To you New York cops (he should be shot): Thank god I live in Chicago!

  • OK, that’s totally off the topic and just an enormously dumb thing to say.

    please. if you are going to comment, keep it within the realm of taste and good sense.

    I really don’t understand some of you people.


  • nypd rules

    Daryl d, Chris,luciano: you guys are intelligent people that think for themselves. Bruce Springsteen is an insult to law enforcement. Trust me, MANY people on the NYPD hate this guy. He was so willing to bash us when it was the fashionable thing to do, but then ran like a jackrabbit when it wasn’t fashionable. I heard, by the way, that his son Evan is gay.

  • D’oh

    Pay no attention to the echo chamber bitches that can’t add any semblance of thought or reason to a discussion and merely attempt to tear things down in vain.

    They demonstrate their own idiocy with every word they type.

    For them, and everyone…just a Thought…

    the Tao of D’oh.

  • This has really entered the realm of the bizarre.


  • Paul H

    hey, I read your article. You are an angry little fellow aren’t you Bryan? Did your liberal daddy lisen to Bruce? Are you angry at your daddy? Was he mean to you? Unavailable? Didn’t go to the big game? Is that why you lost the big game. Daddy? If you were a girl you could’ve become a porn actress. That would show daddy. But you are not a girl. This internet rant should do the trick. Take that daddy you bastard!

  • J.J. Hunsecker

    “It’s almost as if Bruce helped plan the terrorist attacks just so he could write a “song” about it.”

    That makes just as much sense as saying you helped plan the 9/11 attacks because you knew an artist like Bruce would write about it.

    “Everything that this guy has done since The Greatest Hits album was been cheap, boring, and irrelevant.”

    What a coincidence. That sounds like all your work, Daryl, although you haven’t accomplished anything great yet.

    “My husband is a police officer. He hates Bruce Springsteen. He often says he should be shot.”

    your husband is an idiot and an embarrassment to the badge.

  • Mark Saleski

    What right did Bruce have to exploit this?

    it’s called: being an american.

    man, you guys are scary.

  • Tim

    “don’t give me this “listen to the lyics” bs”

    Yeah who cares about the “words” in a song anyways? Bruce is a pinko liberal commie america-hater. I hear he eats babies too.

  • Jordan

    So sad how idiots still roam free in message boards. I bet all you 41 shots haters still think Born In The U.S.A. is a patriotic song. As far as The Rising being exploitative, wtf? are you guys serious? hundreds of 9/11 Widows came up to Bruce to let him know how much his music meant to their deceased ones. He even interviewed many of them and got their approval for making the album. This is the record we needed at that time, it was essential to my healing process and to millions of other americans..Don’t write complete idiocy on these boards, pls don’t waste our time.

  • D’oh,
    that gave me chills.
    thanks for the kind words,


  • daryl d

    “41 Shots” is an absolute condemnation of the NYPD..don’t give me this “listen to the lyics” bs. The song basically says that a bunch of police officers shot a man because he was black. Was that the case then, possible. However, the police officers were vindicated by a jury. What right did Bruce have to exploit this? It’s funny that, when the NYPD became heroes to our country, Bruce put a message about the song on his live dvd. It was like, “Ok, I know I’m wrong and you are heroes now. So here is my apology.” I thought what he did was absolutey pathetic and it was, at this point, he lost me as a fan. Although I’m sure the libbies at the Democratic National Convention still loved what he did.

  • zingzing

    daryl d: “Take the album, The Rising. It was an obvious ploy to draw cash in from the victims of 911. There was NO other way Bruce could have a hit album.”

    “the rising” went to #1, that’s true. but so did “devils and dust.” and “the seeger sessions” went to #3. so there goes that theory.


    see the residents, “demons dance alone.”

  • D’oh

    I’ve also seen it happen a few times as well, Christopher.

    I find this incident highly significant due to the lyric I quoted.

    your mileage may vary

  • First time I saw that happen was the Jimi Hendrix Experience on some UK TV show. EC would surely have seen it too…

  • D’oh

    Argh..Bryan, right about rock if it moves you, my apologies if I seemed to come off harsh.

    Such was NOT my intent. Merely trying to share some insight to aid you in your next foray into the topic.

    The article itself was tight, thoughtful and well written…and you DID generate quite a bit of conversation with it, a very nice bonus.

    Let’s take an experimental stab at it, to see if I can’t clarify…


    On the subject of great moments, I’d like to share what I consider one of the finest moments in both Rock and Punk.

    Back in 1981, a performer was asked to NOT play a specific one of his songs, the executives of the live TV broadcast had gotten word from the higher ups that they would frown upon it and not be pleased. The producer told the Artist…time came, and the band went onstage in front of live cameras.

    This is what happened, live.

    Do notice, they started with another song, and then the Artist decided to go with his principles, and indeed exemplified his desire stated in the line “I wanna bite the hand that feeds me”…living up to his ethic and suffering the consequences of NBC banning him from their radio and TV channels for 10 years.

    That’s rock and roll with a healthy dose of the Punk ethic.

    And , to me…one of the greatest moments in modern Art.


    How’s that?

    Now write on, and keep it real…for those of us who enjoy hearing from the likes of you.

  • I thought I adressed that when I said “I don’t know what the best song ever written is, nobody does.” Born to Run is not my favorite song. Just like there is no greatest song, I have no one favorite song.

    The impetus for the article came from listening to the song and getting chills which just doesn’t happen to me very often. I probably could have written a thousand articles titled “Is ___ The Best Song Ever Written”

    But, all that being said, I don’t think I’ll use superlatives again, and I will not write about contemporary mainstream rock acts anymore. it makes people too crazy.


  • D’oh

    Last thought for this one.

    Trying to find “the greatest” in anything musical is an exercise in frustration. This is due to the medium of Music and Poetry being so completely subjective a topic, what touches one leaves another cold.

    Saying “my favorite”, or “what moved me the most” will keep much of the blather away, and promote discussion of comparisons from the individuals viewpoint.

    Welcome to BC and keep on the effort to “bring the noise”!

    the Tao of D’oh.

  • I can’t say for sure if Born to Run is the best song ever, but it makes a very short list of songs that get a fire burning in me as soon as I hear that opening sweep of the piano keys. I’d also give an honorable mention to Thunder Road.

  • skozoze

    Hi, all –
    I am a long-time Springsteen fan. I thought your article was very good, and while I obviously don’t agree with everything, you had excellent points. I’ve been to about 14 Springsteen shows and every one of them is the best concert I’ve ever been to…Live, he has no equal. U2 was good, the Stones were good, heck, even Olivia Newton-John was good (but that was the 70’s)… but nobody puts on a show like Bruce and that’s why I would still go to one of his concerts. For those who think 41 Shots is about cop killing, you should listen to it. When I heard it live, I had chills and never once did I not empathize with the police officers depicted in the song. As a matter of fact, it opens your eyes to why a shooting like that might take place; it puts you in the shoes of the police officer. Born To Run – I’d say it’s one of the greatest rock songs ever – along with songs such as Carry On, My Wayward Son, Born to Be Wild. Those are songs where you roll down your window (in the summer) and turn it up! Well-written – maybe, but rocking, definitely. I loved Born to Run before I knew who Bruce Springsteen was. Anyway, great article, and thanks to all those with well thought out responses!

  • John

    Holy crap… 41 shots a “Cop Killer” song? Are you kidding? You have obviously never even listened to the song. There is a verse from the police officer’s point of view ‘kneeling over his body in the vestibule praying for his life’.

    “My husband is a police officer. He hates Bruce Springsteen. He often says he should be shot.”

    Your husband should have his badge taken away.

  • Vern Halen

    Re: comment #19 – listing little known tunes makes you (or me, or anyone) feel like a real music expert? Sure! – this is a sinister cabal of serious writers after all. But a good song is a good song, regardless – if it was about being well known, then White Christmas and Happy Birthday are the big winners.

  • Mark Saleski

    now THAT is some writing. sign that man up (#35)

  • jersey

    About your disinterest in older rock musicians…My advice would be to shelve their work for now but not to throw it out. As my 50th birthday draws ever, shockingly nearer I can tell you that over time your taste and sensibilities change along with your experiences. That’s why you’re getting such impassioned responses from Bruce fans. His earlier work focused on the universal struggles of youth–longing to feel your power and your place in the world. His later work focuses more on what happens AFTER you motorcycle way from that lame town that you inhabited in real life or in your mind. One of his recurrent themes since the 90s has been the redemptive power of love (it’s there in Devils and Dust in particular, but the theme also resonates through Lucky Town, etc.) Many songs in The Rising (You’re Missing, Mary’s Place, to name two) explore what it feels like when, after you’ve finally found that redemption, that person and that life is snatched away from you (explosively). These are obviously deep, mature themes and Springsteen addresses them with passion and insight.

    As to concerns that The Rising was exploitive…That’s like saying that Bob Dylan was exploiting the civil rights movement when he wrote “Blowin in the Wind” or Woody Guthrie was just cashing in on all of those Dustbowl refugees when he came up with “This Land Is Your Land.” An artist is just that–no matter his age, income bracket or size of his “paunch” (though photos suggest the man is in fine shape these days).

    Like many serious artists, Springsteen’s work has been misunderstood at times. Hence the anger still coming his way over “41 Shots.” That song was NOT a condemnation of the NYPD. Like much of his later work it illuminated a social dilemma without reducing the issue to right and wrong. The man’s death was a tragedy and racial profiling is an acknowledged problem in the US. But in “41 Shots” the cops don’t shoot this innocent man because they are evil racists. The shooting was triggered by the fear and misunderstanding that can arise when you patrol mean streets at the risk of your own life. This verse is from the COP’s perspective:

    41 shots… cut through the night
    You’re kneeling over his body in the vestibule
    Praying for his life

    Is it a gun, is it a knife
    Is it a wallet, this is your life

    “this is your life” refers to the police officers. If the man has a gun and you don’t shoot first, you’re liable to be killed. The song addresses the tragic complexity of the situation–it doesn’t condemn the police. Springsteen’s work can be controversial and subject to misinterpretation (“Reno”–banned by Starbucks). That’s one of the hazards of artistic expression. In his case the classic example was “Born in the USA” which some (including Ronald Reagan) saw as an impassioned patriotic anthem and others saw as a protest song over the mistreatment of Vietnam Vets. In fact, the song was both of those things, which is another way of saying that it was something else entirely!

    But I digress…just don’t toss the work of your elders. It may speak to you in the future.

  • The Haze

    #33 – If thats the case, anytime now the shark should come in with a verbal arse rippin’! Blood and fear has a smell…… maybe we need a bigger boat.

  • Mark Saleski

    great. blogcritics politics spew comes to the music section.

  • luciano

    Springsteen sucks. Can’t sing, can’t play guitar, and a has-been. He is also incredibly Anti-American.

  • sandra

    My husband and I always used to like Springsteen until he came out with that “Cop Killer” song. It’s not that we think he shouldn’t have done it, but it seems because of his fall in popularity, he thought he could exploit police officers for his own gang. Everybody in the NYPD hates him. I don’t, but just don’t think fondly of him as I did before he released that song.

  • smith

    Bruce Springsteen: never had any talent, never will

    Liberal, trash scumbucket.

  • daryl d

    Bruce is one of the greatest artist of the 70s and 80s. He had some highs and lows in the 90s. After that, completely downhill!

    He, like U2, is another act that can put out complete garbage but still be praised. It’s all pre-planned by the recording industry and the corporate, liberal media.

    Take the album, The Rising. It was an obvious ploy to draw cash in from the victims of 911. There was NO other way Bruce could have a hit album. ANY OTHER ACT THAT DID THE SAME THING WOULD HAVE BEEN CRUCIFIED BY CRITICS! With Bruce, though, it’s great! Never mind that the songs sounded like B side leftovers of Britney Spears singles. Because it was “Bruce” and because it was 911, they “had to like it” otherwise it would have been going “against the 911 Victims.” Notice that Bruce Springsteen’s last two albums have bombed badly. That’s because he didn’t have a tradgedy to exploit or police officers to insult. Perhaps I’ll do my article on him this week and believe me, the article will make Springsteen’s current lambs furious.

  • I think Daryl D and Chris are going to take the heat off of me for a while.



  • benicio l.

    Do Bruce Springsteen fans ever know what real music sounds like? The guy is a has-been. When is the last time he’s had a hit single? Oh, that was 1994. I also am angry at him for using the 911 tradgedy to sell an album. I also am sick and tired of him shoving his liberal beliefs up our throats (most people could care less though because he is, um, irrelevant.

  • chris

    I never thought Bruce Springsteen had any musical talent. Like U2, he is completely overrated.

    My husband is a police officer. He hates Bruce Springsteen. He often says he should be shot.

  • daryl d

    I’m gonna write my “Bruce Springsteen” anger article soon, just like I’ve done with U2. The guy has made some excellent records. However, starting with his anti-police “41 Shots,” the man has made me sick. “The Rising” was the biggest musical exploitation of a tradgedy I’ve ever seen. It’s almost as if Bruce helped plan the terrorist attacks just so he could write a “song” about it. The fact that it sold so many records wasn’t because he was relevant; it was because of 911. Everything that this guy has done since The Greatest Hits album was been cheap, boring, and irrelevant. Everything before has been pretty great. I even liked the Human Touch album! Like I said, you will have my Bruce Springsteen irrelevancy article soon. I’m still calming down from my U2 one.

  • Thanks, again.

  • Bryan,

    When they insult you, that means you’ve caused a reaction. In a weird sort of way, it’s a compliment. Trust me on that one. And welcome to BC.


  • Glen, I appreciate what you are saying, and I appreciate that you can act like an adult and be reasonable.

    for my part, I can admit when i am wrong. what I should have said is Bruce Springsteen is no longer relevant to me, he is obviously relevant to many people and I can appreciate that.

    I suppose I see him like I see Tom Petty: I like a handful of late seventies/early eighties albums, but there is so much out there, I don’t have time to listen to “Highway Companion.”

    As far as the age thing goes, no offense to those in the Boss’ age bracket, it’s just that i’m not into aging rockers, i don’t listen to new Dylan, new Bowie, new Mccartney, new Neil Young, and if John Lennon and Marc Bolan rose from the dead to record an album with Phil Spector, I would be uninterested (aside from the supernatural aspect).

    (note to responders: please don’t exhort me to listen to all the great stuff these dinosaurs have done since they turned sixty-I don’t care).

    I am sorry again for offending the Boss’ legion of fans, I should have thought more about it-of course he’s relevant, that’s why he’s sold a trillion albums and makes a trillion more dollars every year on tour. He’s adored.

    So I take back the whole he’s not relevant thing, that’s my mea culpa.


    To everyone else, please read how Glen wrote a well reasoned response to my off-the-cuff feelings about Bruce Springsteen.
    He was nice, respectful and made his point so much i kind of feel bad.

    Please respond like that, instead of like a wounded child, which means no more: “you don’t know what the f you’re talking about.”

    It is probably true, but when you insult me, do it like an adult.


  • A quick qualifier to my previous comment (#8):

    While I enjoyed the article, I do not agree at all with the sentiment that Springsteen is no longer relevant. I’m not endorsing that statement at all (though I wont repeat the reasons why, since they’ve already been covered in previous comments).

    Still I liked this article.

    I’ll tell ya what though?

    Springsteen may be older, and even have a bit of a paunch as you mention. Age happens okay?

    But for my money, he is still making great records (look no further than Devils & Dust for some of his most descriptive storytelling to date); challenging his audience (more than a few commenters rightfully bring up the Seeger Sessions album and tour); and his live shows still leave you breathless pretty much every damn time. I’ve yet to go to any rock and roll show where I feel like I’m a room with about 20,000 of my best friends the way I do at a Springsteen concert.

    I loved your descriptions of Bruce’s early stuff. I can also kind of understand if Bruce’s nineties output (or lack thereof) may have been frustrating to you (the non-E Street rock records are admittedly an aquired taste for some).

    But since at least the 1999 E Street reunion tour, Springsteen is clearly rejuvenated artistically, and is back making records that once again really do matter. Born To Run II is simply not gonna happen at this stage of the game. Nor should it. That should be left to the next twenty something vagabond drifter out there somewhere.

    In the meantime, Bruce has grown up quite nicely for my money. His newer reflect that maturity, while continuing to ring true to the ideals of that ‘one last chance to make it real’ of his youth.

    I would suggest you reexamine his recent work starting with The Rising.


  • matt is so angry. I think he must be bruce springsteen’s dad or his roadie or something. matt, go put some “devils and dust” on and relax.

  • Matt

    You’re a moron if you think Springsteen is no longer relevant. In this decade alone he’s done the most signifant piece of art about 9/11 (The Rising, in case you haven’t heard of it), released a tremendous folk album that is right in line with the story he’s been telling for more than 30 years, and recorded and toured with a 19 piece Seeger Sessions band that absolutely tore the house down at every show. You don’t know what the F you’re talking about. Congrats on listing off some less-than-well-known songs as potential greatests of all time; that must make you feel like a real music expert.

  • “sandy’ is excellent, as is “prove it all night,” there are a bunch of good ones, but no more, which is fine. all good things must come to an end. i had no idea this would cause such a response. i may have been a little sloppy with my superlatives. “witichita lineman” is good but “galveston” is better. as for my research methods, shoot me, you get the point. my jonathan richman favorites of the moment are “rockin’ rockin’ leprechauns” and “new teller.”

  • We’re never going to reach consensus on this one. But I have to say, as someone who’s been disgusted with Bruce Springsteen for many years (and no, I DON’T think the Seeger Sessions is a great album AT ALL), you have done a fine job of reminding me why Springsteen did once matter. I wouldn’t pick this one as my fave — I’m partial instead to that tender boardwalk epic “Sandy” — but the general idea is right on the money.

  • D’oh

    Point taken.

  • JR

    D’oh: FYI there JR – that “void” wasn’t what you think it was… take it from someone who comes from there.

    In your case, sure. But most dead factory towns aren’t 30 miles from NYC.

  • it’s a great song but it’s not the greatest

  • Vern Halen

    Sorry – I just noticed the title is “Best Song Ever WRITTEN?” That award goes to Wichita Lineman by Jimmy Webb.

  • Vern Halen

    BTR one of rock’s truly great numbers? Sure.

    Greatest song? An impossible task.

    But right at this moment I’m going with The Modern Lovers’ Roadrunner.

    “Radio on!” indeed.

  • tsds

    you might consider researching more before writing.

  • D’oh

    FYI there JR – that “void” wasn’t what you think it was… take it from someone who comes from there.

    but it still isn’t the “greatest” song…

    the Tao of D’oh.

  • JR

    J. P. Spencer: Let’s put it this way. If you’re an American, who grew up in a factory town, where the factory eventually left the town and you watched the town slowly wither away to an empty shell, “Born To Run” is the best song ever written.

    Sounds like growing up in a cultural and intellectual void. If that’s what it takes to make it the best song ever written…

  • Congrats. Your article has just been selected for BC News Promotions to Digg, Reddit, & Netscape.

    So be sure to vote!

    End BC business —

    Begin Personal note —

    Good article too. I’d probably go with “Like A Rolling Stone” for best ever myself. My favorite Bruce track is the relatively obscure “The Price You Pay”. My favorite album is “Darkness.”

    But in terms of impact, BTR would be right up there — no doubt.


  • Edna

    Totally unrelated– but have you ever heard Nat Cole sing Stardust? And the arrangement! But, true enough, it’s not politically relevant….

  • D’oh

    JP – i grew up right where Springsteen did…went to school with one of his cousins…bounced at the Stone Pony…

    I said I was *there* during *then*…

    it’s is A “great song”….but not THE “greatest”

    just my opinion, of course…

  • Let’s put it this way. If you’re an American, who grew up in a factory town, where the factory eventually left the town and you watched the town slowly wither away to an empty shell, “Born To Run” is the best song ever written.

    For the rest of the world, it’s “God Only Knows” or something.

  • D’oh

    Southside Johnny > Springsteen….i was there , then

    As for the question – was it the best song ever written?

    no…it was and is a great song, but not the best

    your mileage may very

    the Tao of D’oh.

  • John Z

    When was the last time Springsteen was relevant?

    He wrote the one record that dealt with 9/11 in a healing “fashion”… remember a record called “The Rising”?

    Listen to “You’re Missing” – a masterpiece written about 9/11 but it can be about anyone who’s lost a loved one.

    Right after 9/11 someone saw Springsteen and shouted “We need you now” —– in 2007, we need Bruce Springsteen more than ever.

    As far as best song of all time… why does there have to be a “best”? Everyone’s taste is different and subjective. I don’t think anyone can “objectively” choose the best song of all time.

  • Gary P

    Is Born to Run the best song ever?


  • But how long has it been since musically, sonically, and historically Bruce Springsteen has been relevant?

    Um, about nine months ago with the release of The Seeger Sessions.