“She’s The One” – Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band

Born To Run turned 40 this week. You may have read something about that somewhere.[1] The song “Born To Run” is one I remember from way back in, likely, it’s earliest days. It wasn’t a song for me, or about my life. But it was one that got heavy play on the stations my parents listened to. So it was already in my rock ’n roll DNA before I rediscovered it many years later and learned to love it on my own.

The rest of the album, though, was unfamiliar to me until the early 2000s when the joys of file sharing allowed me to dive into more of its tracks. “Thunder Road” became a favorite. I enjoyed the majesty of “Jungleland.” But, honestly, it probably wasn’t until just a couple years ago that I finally listened to the album in whole, front-to-back.

There are many different types of classic albums. There are those that define a genre, or take a fledgling musical movement and force it into the mainstream. There is the perfectly crafted break up record. There is the album full of hit singles. There is the carefully considered concept album, in which a common narrative thread ties every song together.

And then there is that slot that Born To Run fills: the album that projects the beliefs, fears, and dreams of people of an exact age, in an exact moment in time, in an exact place.[2] When you listen to Born To Run, you are transported back to 1975, when kids in their mid–20s weren’t sure about the world into which they were coming of age. Even if you weren’t alive then, or like me were too young to really remember the early ‘70s, Springsteen paints a dramatic, detailed picture of that era. It is an audacious, ambitious album that perfectly sums up the age it came from: the moment just before disco and punk and hip hop were unleashed on the world.

“Born To Run” is one of my 25 favorite songs of all time. It may be the perfect American rock song. “Thunder Road” is an all-time great side one, track one. And “Jungleland” is a perfect closer. But since I discovered the deeper tracks of the album, this song has always stood out for me. It’s a song that sounds incredibly familiar. Part of that is because of the Bo Diddley riff the entire piece us built upon. For children of the ‘80s, there is also the opening piano line and vocal mannerisms that John Cafferty borrowed a decade later for his biggest hit. And also it sounds familiar because this was the first time that Springsteen laid down the basic formula that he based so many of his biggest hits on. A formula that has been followed repeatedly over the last 40 years by countless artists. It’s not his biggest hit. And I can’t say it was his most influential. But it left a broader shadow that you might imagine.

  1. I collected a few articles published this week I’ll share here shortly.  ↩
  2. A big reason that The Hold Steady is so often considered Springsteen-esque is not just their bar band roots, but also that their best albums are the soundtracks of people of a particular age with a particular world-view.  ↩