HotList 'Em Carefully

Bruce Springsteen: 40 Years, 40 Songs

on March 02, 2012, 1:30pm
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Image (1) springsteen-feat.jpg for post 196950

“From the beginning, I imagined I would have a long work life.”
-Bruce Springsteen

It’s almost impossible to discuss rock ‘n’ roll without mentioning Bruce Springsteen. When Columbia Records signed the New Jersey songwriter in 1972, few if any expected the highly celebrated career that would blossom years later. His 1973 debut, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., more or less flopped, and its follow-up, 1973’s The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, also received little commercial attention.

It was a rough time, but the label held on, thanks in part to a string of critics who championed Springsteen’s style – especially Crawdaddy‘s Peter Knobler. However, it wasn’t until 1974 that sparks began to fly, right around the time that Springsteen started carving out material for what would become his masterpiece, Born to Run. In May of ’74, Jon Landau, who was then a writer for Boston’s The Real Paper, caught Springsteen at the Harvard Square Theater and wrote, “I saw rock and roll future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”

While hardly a prophet, Landau did bring success to Springsteen. Soon enough, he became the band’s manager, pushing them forward in their long, arduous recording sessions behind Born to Run, the likes of which amounted to 14 months of work. By 1975, upon the album’s release, Springsteen’s life changed forever.

We know the rest of the story; after all, why else would we be writing about him? Forty years later, Springsteen has become one of America’s most poignant songwriters, and he continues to expand his critically and commercially acclaimed discography. His latest album, Wrecking Ball, marks the 17th album in his career.

In light of the new album, and given that he’s been doing this professionally for 40 years, we thought it’d be fun to collect 40 of his best songs. We didn’t realize how insane of a feat that was until we started. The man’s catalog is seemingly endless (just look), but we couldn’t shrug off the challenge. What we learned, however, is that for every great song, there’s an even greater one behind it. So, we fully admit there are handfuls of tracks left out here. Still, we think the 40 we picked our top, top choices.

To amplify your reading experience, we’ve put together a Spotify playlist with each song listed. Check it out, and then offer your own favorite tracks from The Boss.

-Michael Roffman

Photo by Cap Blackard.

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Shahab Shakib Passand
May 31, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Come on, you can’t be serious: Human Touch??? Are you kiddin’ me? I’m a huge Bruce fan, but I can’t stand that song. It is one of the lowest points in Bruce carrier and didn’t age well at all.

Erin Rogers
October 6, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Independence Day!!!

April 11, 2012 at 11:16 pm

‘The River’ is waaay too low at 21 as well. OK I’ll shut up now. Unless I come back with my own Top 40…

April 11, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Just checked ther list a 2nd time: first off, kudos for including ‘Something In The Night’, one of my favorites. But, No ‘Brilliant Disguise’ or ‘Tunnel Of Love’?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!!?!

April 11, 2012 at 11:11 pm

no ‘Independence Day’, no legitimacy to the list. It’s the best of Bruce’s “Father and Son” songs (and for that matter, I don’t remember seeing ‘Adam Raised A Cain’ either!). Where’s ‘Johnny 99’? ‘Growin’ Up’? ‘Lucky Town’? I could go on forever…plus, there are really questionable entries (‘I’m Goin’ Down’…love it, but it’s not top 40), and songs that belong but are way too high on the list (‘Streets Of Philadelphia’ for example. Good song, but he’s written better, IMO).

If I messed up and complained about a missing song that is actually present, I apologize…the list is spread over 5 pages, hard to keep track. I don’t think I did, though…

Mike L
March 4, 2012 at 11:15 am

Pretty solid list, but definitely lacking Streets of Fire and Tougher Than the Rest

Johnny Abruzzo
March 3, 2012 at 3:09 pm

I’d put Worlds Apart on my list, and agree with Glory Days, of course.

Bruce Fan
March 3, 2012 at 1:27 am

Great list, but kind of surprised by the omission of Glory Days

Kevan Irsch
August 18, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Glory Days is overrated. I roll my eyes whenever Springsteen plays it in concert these days.

Erin Rogers
October 6, 2012 at 8:05 pm


March 3, 2012 at 12:05 am

I have to agree that Incident on 57th Street I was expecting to see in the top 10 for sure.  But what a great list !!   Its hard to pick just 40.    

March 2, 2012 at 6:13 pm

I know you had to leave some excellent songs off the list, but if you were to ever make a 40 song mix tape of Bruce would ya really leave “Incident On 57 Street” off of it?

Another Springsteen tune that doesn’t get the love it should is “Maria’s Bed” from Devils and Dust. If for no other reason it should be heard as it is the only song you ever hear him singing in this high of a register.

Fun list all in all!


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