The Ties That Bind: Bruce Springsteen's 25 Biggest Heroes

The artists, activists and friends that have shaped Springsteen's world

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Roy Orbison
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images10/25

Roy Orbison

Right before Bruce Springsteen recorded Born to Run, he'd lay in bed every night and listen to Roy Orbison's Greatest Hits. "Some rock & roll reinforces friendship and community," Springteen said when he inducted Orbison in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. "But for me, Roy's ballads were always best when you were alone and in the dark. Roy scrapped the idea that you needed verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus to have a hit. His arrangements were complex and operatic, they had rhythm and movement and they addressed the underside of pop romance. They were scary. His voice was unearthly." He name-checked the singer on "Thunder Road" ("Roy Orbison singing for the lonely") and in the final years of his life, they played together a handful of times. Even on Springsteen's new album High Hopes, he's trying to emulate his hero. "[On 'Dream Baby Dream'] I thought to myself, 'How would Roy Orbison sing this song?' he told Rolling Stone. "What made Roy's music great is that it was so mainstream, but it had a very strange underbelly to it."

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