5.  Thunder Road (Born To Run, 1978)

One of his most poetic songs lyrically, a song about desperation and loneliness and needing to get out and change your life: “You ain’t a beauty, but hey you’re all right.”

4.  Born in the U.S.A. (Born in the U.S.A., 1984)

It was a huge hit for a reason: It’s awesome.  It’s the kind of epic our flawed Democracy needs: A song that doesn’t apologize for our problems but, in so doing, celebrates America and all it means to be from this country.  It’s also got one of my favorite opening lines: “Born down in a dead man’s town, the first kick I took was when I hit the ground…”  The song performed very well for Bruce, charting at #9 and turning him from a rock icon into a national figure.
Covers: Tons. But let’s stick on 2 Live Crew.

3.  Independence Day (The River, 1981)

The best song off Bruce’s most powerful album, a song about a kid and his father and the need to break free.  The son is saying goodnight to his father, and one feels it may be for the last time.  “Papa now I know the things you wanted that you could not say/But won’t you just say goodbye it’s Independence Day/I swear I never meant to take those things away.”  When I think of my own child leaving home, I think of this song, and here I go tearing up again.  This post has made me sentimental.

2.  Atlantic City (Nebraska, 1982)

From his quiet, acoustic album Nebraska—a collection of menacing folk songs—comes another romantic anthem how a partner is the only way out of the sorrow and sickness of daily life.  Springsteen might be a depressing guy, if there wasn’t so much love in his songs.  “Everything dies, that’s a fact, but everything that dies, some day comes back.”

1.  Born to Run (Born to Run, 1975)

I know, it’s the one everyone expected.  But it’s here for a reason: Cars.  Young love.  Sex.  Rebellion.  All through the eyes of a working class hero.  It’s the epitome of everything that makes Springsteen great.  “Sprung from cages on Highway 9, chrome-wheel fuel-injected and stepping out over the line,” may be the best, most poetic, most completely rock and roll lyric of all time.


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