19. "The Promise"
The Promise, 2010
Springsteen spent two years writing and recording songs for Darkness on the Edge of Town. Many were quickly tossed aside, but he kept returning to "The Promise," making slight lyric changes to the tale of two friends torn apart by a vague betrayal. Inspired by his lawsuit with former manager Mike Appel, it was eventually set aside because it was "too self-referential," but the song became a fan favorite when he added it to his live set. "There's a lot going on in those lyrics," says Van Zandt. "He's leaving it open as to who broke the promise. You have to recognize the possibility that one can break [a] promise to one's self, and compromise when maybe they shouldn't have."