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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9. "Born in the U.S.A."

Born in the U.S.A., 1984

Both "Born in the U.S.A." and its eventual B side, the quieter veteran's lament "Shut Out the Light," had its origins in a third, never-finished song, "Vietnam." That composition split in two after Springsteen grabbed the phrase "Born in the U.S.A." from the title page of a Paul Schrader screenplay he'd been sent. Springsteen recorded a solo acoustic version of "Born in the U.S.A." in the same cassette-demo sessions that produced Nebraska, but the song seemed unspectacular in that format. "It was one of the lesser songs on the Nebraska tape," said producer Jon Landau. But Springsteen revived the song in E Street Band sessions, where it instantly came to spectacular life: "We just kinda did it off the cuff," Springsteen said. "I never taught it to the band. I went in and said, 'Roy, get this riff.' And he just pulled out that sound, played the riff on the synthesizer. We played it two times, and our second take is on the rec­ord. That's why the guys are really on the edge. . . . To me, [Max Weinberg] was right up there with the best of them on that song. There was no arrangement. I said, 'When I stop, keep the drums going.' That thing in the end with all the drums, that just kinda happened."

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