Five Songs That Set Springsteen on Fire

Jon Foro on September 28, 2016

Amazon Book Review: Bruce Springsteen: Five Songs

Bruce Springsteen fans already know that the Boss does everything big, and his new autobiography is no exception. Born to Run is 500-plus pages of essential, indelible rock & roll history — equal parts reflection, celebration, and confession.

Born-to-RunIt wasn’t exactly intended that way: Following his high-energy halftime performance at the 2009 Super Bowl, Springsteen felt compelled to write about the exhilaration of the experience, but the impulse ultimately blossomed into a much larger project, including a retrospective song compilation, Chapter and Verse, that tracks the eras of the book and his evolution as an artist.

Music-loving readers will be thankful Springsteen chose to tell the story himself. From the tribulations of his Catholic upbringing to superstardom of Born in the USA and beyond — with all the triumphs and regrets in between — Springsteen unwinds his tale with the naked emotion, honesty and power of his best songs. His pages are filled with, as he might say, the devils and dust of an ambitious life, where the darkness doesn't always keep to the edge of town.

As for which songs inspired the Boss himself, here are five of his greatest influences as recounted in Born to Run, as well as a pair of images from the book:


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Elvis Presley, “Hound Dog” (1956)
When Presley appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in October 1956, Springsteen had just turned 7 years old. Still, the King made a sizable impression on the kid from New Jersey.
Bruce says: “When it was over that night, those few minutes, when the man with the guitar vanished in a shroud of screams, I sat there transfixed in front of the television set, my mind on fire.”


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The Beatles, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (1963)
The mop-topped lads from Liverpool invaded New York in 1964, causing near-hysteria among the young women who greeted them. Unsurprisingly, Springsteen witnessed the phenomenon from another angle.
Bruce says: “It didn’t take me long to figure it out: I didn’t want to meet the Beatles. I wanted to BE the Beatles.”


“Me and the Big Man at the Eric Meola photo shoot for Born to Run” (photo credit: Eric Meola)


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The Drifters, “This Magic Moment” (1960)
Springsteen classics like “Born to Run,” “Hungry Heart” and “Born in the USA,” chronicle the soaring highs and desperate lows — often intertwined — of everyday life. It was a lesson he learned early with the help of this 1960 hit.
Bruce says: “Records that held my interest were the ones where the singers sounded simultaneously happy and sad.”


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Bob Dylan, “Like a Rolling Stone” (1965)
Outside of Springsteen himself, no other musician looms larger than Dylan in the pages of Born to Run.
Bruce says: “'Like a Rolling Stone’ gave me the faith that a true, unaltered, uncompromised vision could be broadcast to millions, changing minds, enlivening spirits, bringing red blood to the anemic American pop landscape and delivering a warning, a challenge that could become an essential part of the American conversation. This was music that could both stir the heart of your fellow countrymen and awaken the mind of a shy, lost 15-year-old in a small New Jersey town. … Bob Dylan is the father of my country. Highway 61 Revisited and Bringing It All Back Home were not only great records, but they were the first time I can remember being exposed to a truthful vision of the place I lived. The darkness and light were all there, the veil of illusion and deception ripped aside.”


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Van Morrison, “Astral Weeks” (1968)
Like multitudes of musicians and dreamers before and after, Springsteen spent countless hours under the spell of the late-night DJ, a soothsayer delivering truth and beauty directly to his listeners, all together and alone.
Bruce says:Astral Weeks [was] the record that taught me to trust beauty and to believe in the divine, courtesy of my local FM radio station.”


“My muscles got muscles…” (photo credit: David Gahr)


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