100 Greatest Bruce Springsteen Songs of All Time

An expert panel of writers and artists pick Springsteen's best songs, from "Rosalita" to "Wrecking Ball"

6

"Backstreets"

bruce springsteen
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Born to Run, 1975

In his Rolling Stone review of Born to Run, Greil Marcus said Roy Bittan's cascading piano intro to "Backstreets" was so powerful "it might be the prelude to a rock & roll version of The Iliad." The song has invited many interpretations: It may be about Springsteen's early-Seventies ­girlfriend Diane Lozito, or a close male friendship that's faded (some hear homoerotic undertones in the song). He contrasts tragic images – "Remember all the movies, Terry, we'd go see/Trying to learn how to walk like heroes we thought we had to be" – and triumphal music that echoes mid-Sixties­ Bob Dylan (especially in its Blonde on Blonde-style organ). It's taken on deep personal meaning; he played it frequently in 2007, after longtime assistant Terry Magovern died, and it opened the first show the E Street Band played after organist Danny Federici died in 2008 (poignantly, minus the organ part). "Put on 'Backstreets' and everyone holds up their whiskey and sings along," says Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast. "It really brings people together."

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