I first heard "Spirit In The Night" when it was covered by Manfred Mann, who also did "Blinded By The Light" and "For You." I really enjoyed the lyrics to "Sprit In The Night" even then with all those intriguing characters in their own little world. But I didn't realize it was a Bruce Springsteen song until I bought Born To Run, then went back to the first two Springsteen albums and I heard Bruce's original and suddenly "Spirit In The Night" made so much sense to me. It has that adolescent sense of time that brought me back to my own childhood – going down to the lake and hanging out and trying to find yourself.
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It was the mid-Seventies and I was in high school in Kansas and just figuring myself out, and I didn't know a thing about the Jersey Shore, or New York City for that matter. But I felt like I had experienced that same American longing, that American Dream and American dissatisfaction. Bruce's music gave me fuel to move forward. I'd listen to "Born To Run" and just stare at the radio because it had so much meaning for me. There had already been rock and roll in my life. I was a big fan of the Who and Led Zeppelin already, but this was an American poet writing about my world in a way I could recognize and feel.
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1."Spirit In The Night" | Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 1973
2."Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" | Bruce Springsteen, 1973
I always loved that line: "A record company, Rosie, just gave me a big advance." That was the ultimate rock and roll dream back then. Beyond being one of the most thrilling songs of all time, "Rosalita" made me look forward to someday getting my own first advance. Back then it was a big deal – they gave you a little money and a lot of freedom. Times are very different now.
3."Thunder Road" | Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 1975
I can still hardly believe it, but you can YouTube a video of Bruce and I singing "Thunder Road" on my MTV Unplugged. I was playing solo, and I was going to do that song anyway, along with songs by Janis Joplin song and Joan Armatrading to show my influences. MTV asked if I'd like to sing with anybody, and I said Bruce, and he said "Yes." I will never forget it.
4."Jungleland" | Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 1975
"Jungleland" made me want to go to New York City – to drive over the bridge or through the tunnel from New Jersey and discover the city for myself. That song was pure mythology. It was epic. I still think rock and roll songs can be like that. They don't have to be three and a half minutes long. They can be six or seven minutes. They can move people, and have movements within the song. That Clarence Clemons solo is just timeless.
5."Darkness On The Edge Of Town" | Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 1978
I grew up in a town with a giant prison, and that song always connected with me. When you grow up in one town and your life revolves around it, you are very aware of any darkness on the edge of town. That's because it's scary and it's inviting. There are a lot of feelings wrapped up on this song.
6."The River" | Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 1980
Bruce's songs are timeless and the sense of longing in them is universal, so a song like "The River" is easy to make your own. When I hear "The River," I'm not thinking about New Jersey. I'm think about Leavenworth, Kansas with the Missouri River right there, and the people I knew and their sense of longing.
7."Independence Day" | Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 1980
That song paints such a picture, a very American picture. Sometimes Bruce is like Norman Rockwell with a sense of darkness underneath – a little David Lynch mixed in too. He's writing about the picture and what's going on underneath.
8."Atlantic City" | Bruce Springsteen, 1982
I loved Nebraska. Bruce's choices and ventures into artistic projects like Nebraska gave me hope that you could have big hits and make great art too. You can be introspective and find the pain in the city and in the human heart. His dedication to his art even over his career is inspirational.
9."Downbound Train" | Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 1984
"Downbound Train" has a kind of plainspoken poetry that ties it to great country music – it's almost like a Hank Williams song. It's a simple and profound statement, and vocally he stays in a pretty confined space and you feel the pain of that guy working in the car wash where all it ever does is rain. God, he's good.
10."I'm On Fire" | Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 1984
That's a sexy song. I didn't like to cover a lot of Bruce songs because I admire them all too much. But "I'm On Fire" was a chance for me to cover it and dip into my own sexuality, and that idea of longing for that rich woman who's unsatisfied. I wish Bruce had written more sexy songs, but there are enough for me. He shows you can be a great artist and be sexy. He gives me hope.
11."Brilliant Disguise" | , 1987
Tunnel Of Love came after Bruce got married. The songs that came out of that time, like "Brilliant Disguise," are incredible in the way they just peel back the layers of a relationship and show the truth about the disguises we wear in our relationships – especially our first marriages. He speaks the truth about those unspoken moments in romantic relationships.
12."Youngstown" | Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 1995
He just paints these American portraits so truthfully. He goes beyond the mythology and gets to the truth. He's become an older wiser man looking at the truth of these great steel towns that were once full of work and money, and are now crumbling. He was always connected to that part of America. He put the mirror back up to us so we could see what's left.
13."The Rising" | Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 2002
I can barely listen to that song, and I could barely listen to it when it came out in the wake of 9/11. However much the whole album had, the way he writes on it you are able to project your own images onto it, and those are haunting images. I think "The Rising" is a man coming face to face with his spirituality.
14."Lonesome Day" | Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 2002
That's a hit song there. "Lonesome Day" is right up there with "Hungry Heart" to me that has the perfect balance of joy and pain, and satisfied our need to clap our hands and sing along.
15."Radio Nowhere" | Bruce Springsteen, 2007
When I heard "Radio Nowhere" on the radio the first time, I related so much that I felt like saying, "Thank you Bruce. That's the way to speak the truth." That's what he does, and he's still out there doing it.