Bruce Springsteen’s legions of fans worldwide don’t need a reason to play his music. We listen to it every day. At home, while walking, driving, biking or breathing. But his 70th birthday on September 23 is a reason (or an excuse) to introduce non-fans or casual fans to some Springsteen tracks that you probably haven’t heard. We’ve created this mixtape from deep within Springsteen’s oeuvre of 327 songs. You won’t find “Born to Run” or “Dancing in the Dark” on this mixtape. But you will find “Prove It All Night,” “Brilliant Disguise” and “Wreck on the Highway.” If you listen to these lyrics, you’ll perhaps appreciate the man from New Jersey as a storyteller. There’s the man walking thru the factory gates in the rain, the highway patrolman and his outlaw brother, who traded dances with Maria, and even the woman bagging groceries in the supermarket. (Most fans, by the way, hate the latter song, “Queen of the Supermarket.” But I like it, so it’s on this playlist. If you want to check all the lyrics, you can find them here.)
The tracks are in chronological order, starting with two songs from his first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, recorded in 1972. Three of the tracks are covers of songs by other artists: “Jersey Girl,” written by Tom Waits, “Chimes of Freedom” by Bob Dylan, and “Because the Night,” which Springsteen wrote with Patti Smith.
After you listen to our Spotify playlist, you can wander over to YouTube to see a video of Springsteen performing an acoustic version of his 1984 hit, “Born in the USA.” It’s his most misunderstood song, best known as an arena anthem, but the acoustic version is a better way to tell the story of a disillusioned Vietnam veteran.
Curating this playlist with me are two local Springsteen fans: June Skinner Sawyers, author of several books on Springsteen and other musicians and co-editor of a new Springsteen book; and Brad Paulsen, an architect and Springsteen fan since his teenage years, who gets credit for introducing me, an audio-only Springsteen fan, to live Springsteen concerts 20 years ago. And that’s how I went from being a casual fan to what Springsteen refers to as one of his “obsessives.” And thanks to Julian Ramirez, our music editor, for his contributions to our playlist.
Another commemoration of Springsteen’s birthday is a new book of essays published by Rutgers University Press, to be released on September 23. Jonathan Cohen and June Sawyers are co-editors of Long Walk Home: Reflections on Bruce Springsteen. Third Coast Review will post a review of the book later this month.