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"

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"Wrecking Ball"

bruce springsteen
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Wrecking Ball, 2012

Bruce wrote this song for our final shows at Giants Stadium in 2009 before they tore it down. It's one of those road songs written for the band. They tend to take on a very comfortable arrangement because they're being written for the live band and with the live band. It's not like he's going home in between and writing it and demo'ing it and showing it to the band later. He's playing us the song backstage on his acoustic guitar, just like the old days. Songs like that take on a different sort of immediacy because they're literally being worked up at soundcheck.

But it's become a bigger song than merely about a physical wrecking ball. We had a long conversation about whether it should be the title of our last album. I thought once it's elevated to the title of the album it actually will take on an additional metaphorical significance that can turn around the defensive negative implications of a wrecking ball smashing a structure or metaphorically smashing one's past or history or dreams. There's some of that in there. The song begins to say, "We are now the wrecking ball. We're out here wrecking your passivity. We're wrecking your acceptance of mediocrity. We're out here living it with you in the pouring rain, we're not afraid of anything. Bring on the wrecking ball." In order to be reborn, one must die. That's what it became.

I think it's a great example of how good craft becomes art. I really believe that is how most of it happens. It's rare that someone sets out to do something that is great art and actually succeeds at it. Most of the time that's not the thought. Bruce certainly does that more than most.

By Steven Van Zandt

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