Deciding on your five favorite Springsteen tunes can be rather intimidating. For me, it’s not as hard as, say, jotting down the five ultimate Pearl Jam ditties, but it’s still quite the cerebral challenge. And it should be for anybody who religiously rocks out to The Boss.
Regardless, I’ve gone ahead and tackled this challenge to the best of my ability. And I’m happy with the results. With such a formidable library, I doubt anyone in the world shares this same list, so I can only hope that this post inspires some adventurous readers to come up with their own (including numbering!). It’s fun, trust me.
5. Atlantic City
A bit of an odd one for the top five, you may say. And before you take that road – it doesn’t appear on this list simply because “Philly” is mentioned in the opening verse. As far as Springsteen songs go, this has an unnatural and unique beauty to it. A charm that’s hard to put a finger on, but is there through each lyric and chord. Moreover, there’s a personal element for me, as it stirs memories of my wife and I enjoying one of our first dates down the southern Jersey shore at The Borgata (minus all the gloom and depression of the song, of course). It invokes a bit of sadness, sure, but the harmonica is legendary, and its chorus is one of the best throughout Springsteen’s entire catalog.
Ultimate lyric: Now our luck may have died, and our love may be cold, but with you, forever I’ll stay.
4. No Surrender
Here is basically the perfect rock song. Sure, the whole “following your dreams!” theme is a bit played out, but it’s much more special coming from The Boss. I once listened to this song on repeat (no breaks) on a six-hour flight to San Francisco, and it’s still impossible for me to grow tired of its grungy charm. If you ever need a song to light a figurative fire under your ass, even if it’s just to do a load of laundry, look no further. Pure inspiration in musical form.
Ultimate lyric: I want to sleep beneath peaceful skies in my lover’s bed, with a wide open country in my eyes and these romantic dreams in my head.
3. Born to Run
No shit, right? I’m sure that some butt-monkey reading this will call it cliché, but in reality, it’s anything but. This is rock ‘n’ roll incarnate, and everything that The Boss has ever stood for or wrote about is embodied in this anthem. Hell, this song embodies everything that is fantastic about human nature, love, and life as we know it. It’s powerful, it’s raw, it’s sexy, it’s transcendant. My children’s children will get it! And believe me when I tell you that you have not experienced a true live music experience until you’ve seen Bruce belt this out under the bright lights. It’s everything that music is supposed to be.
Ultimate lyric: Will you walk with me out on the wire? ’cause, baby, Im just a scared and lonely rider, but I gotta know how it feels. I wanna know if love is wild, baby, I wanna know if love is real.
2. Thunder Road
Its lyrics are more meaningful, honest, and eloquent than most modern novels, film scripts, and songs that win awards. Most importantly, it’s a story – and a damn good one. A true art form is being able to wrap a deep and beautiful tale in perfect rock ‘n’ roll. Only The Boss and Mr. Eddie Vedder have such an ability, by the way. ‘Thunder Road’ is all about the story it tells; even as prose (try it), it’s fantastic. These are Springsteen’s best words and the greatest example of his legendary storytelling. Oh, Thunder Road.
Ultimate lyric: 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.
Everyone has bad days, bad years, bad stretches on the road of life. You don’t need Bruce to tell you that we all have our own personal Badlands. This, to me, is the ultimate Bruce Springsteen song, and one of my favorite songs of all-time (I would say maybe even in the top three). It’s a glorious anthem about being down on your luck and standing up to howl a giant “Fuck You” to everything that is forcing you through that long and broken road. Never has such a simple, inspiring premise (recycled so very often in popular culture, mind you) existed within such a wonderful musical context.
Ultimate lyric: Poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king. And a king ain’t satisfied ’til he rules everything. I wanna go out tonight, I wanna find out what I got.