Bruce Springsteen: 100 Greatest Songs of All Time – Rolling Stone
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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”

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 12: Bruce Springsteen performs onstage during 'Springsteen On Broadway' at Walter Kerr Theatre on October 12, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

Bruce Springsteen performs onstage during 'Springsteen on Broadway' at the Walter Kerr Theatre on October 12, 2017 in New York City.

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

In the 41 years since the release of his debut, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., Bruce Springsteen has built up a catalog of songs nearly unrivaled in the history of rock, from the streetwise drama of his early work, through to the stadium-shaking heights of Born in the U.S.A., and continuing on to his recent socially and politically impassioned efforts like the new High Hopes.

Such sustained greatness makes choosing highlights a deeply subjective job, but we’ve given it our best shot. Selected with the help of a panel of writers and artists, here are our picks for Springsteen’s 100 greatest songs.

The panel: Win Butler (Arcade Fire), Andy Greene (Associate editor, Rolling Stone), Dr. Lauren Onkey (The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum), Jackson Browne (singer-songwriter, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer), Mikal Gilmore (Contributing editor, Rolling Stone), Christopher Phillips (Editor and publisher, Backstreets magazine), Peter Ames Carlin (Journalist, Springsteen biographer), Brian Hiatt, (Senior writer, Rolling Stone), Rob Sheffield (Contributing editor, Rolling Stone), Bethany Cosentino (Founding member, Best Coast), Alan Light (Journalist and author, The Holy or the Broken), Steven Van Zandt (Actor, guitarist, E Street Band member), Bill Flanagan (Executive vice president, MTV Networks), Edward Norton (Actor-director, two-time Oscar nominee), Warren Zanes (Founding member, the Del Fuegos), David Fricke (Senior writer, Rolling Stone), Tom Morello (Solo artist, Rage Against the Machine guitarist)

bruce springsteen

Ebet Roberts/Getty Images

29

“Brilliant Disguise”

Tunnel of Love, 1987

I purchased Tunnel of Love when I was 16. I know that for most people, especially bandwagon critics, that album might have been seen as a letdown, because it had to follow the massive eclipse of Born in the U.S.A. But I’ve always felt it got shafted. It’s his divorce album, and I love breakup records – like Marvin Gaye‘s Here, My Dear, or Bill Withers+Justments, or even Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights. On “Brilliant Disguise,” Bruce is so open about saying it’s over. Most people in the public eye go to great lengths to be private, even in the celebrity-obsessed society we live in. But he’s just like, “We gave it our best shot, and it didn’t work.” It’s unresolved. You don’t get that type of honesty and vulnerability from music very often.

Last year, I spent two weeks going to Springsteen shows. I went to, like, four of them – night after night, at the Apollo, at the Garden, in Philly and in Jersey. I watched him literally climbing the walls of the Apollo. He’s in his sixties! I couldn’t do that, and I’m way younger than him. I started studying his catalog even more after that.

When Bruce came on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, that was one of the most magical moments ever in the show. He’s so all-inclusive, and so not full of ego. I mean, I’ve seen acts walk through here with, like, 12 bodyguards just to go to the bathroom. Meanwhile, Springsteen walks in our dressing room without knocking, takes a guitar and starts telling us about Nebraska. That’s just him. When we performed “E Street Shuffle,” he just said, “Follow my lead,” and brought the audience up to dance with us. We were all out on the floor, including the entire staff – wardrobe, makeup, producers, everything. He just has this circus-ringleader quality about him. It’s awesome.

By Questlove

bruce springsteen

Steve Granitz/WireImage

28

“The Rising”

The Rising, 2002

Of all the haunting images to emerge from 9/11, the one that struck Springsteen the most was the one of firemen going up the stairways of the buildings. “You could be ascending a smoky staircase,” Springsteen said in 2002. “You could be in the afterlife, moving – moving on.” This anthemic song – told from the perspective of a rescue worker and recorded in producer Brendan O’Brien’s Atlanta studio – was the first single from the first album he recorded with the E Street Band in 18 years. “You are able to project your own images onto it,” says Melissa