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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Bruce Springsteen Songs of the 1980s

See what song managed to top ‘I’m On Fire,’ ‘Hungry Heart’ and ‘Atlantic City’

Bruce Springsteen; Reader Poll; 10 best songs from 1908s

Bruce Springsteen in concert at Wembley Seen with musician Nils Lofgren in 1985.

Steve Back/REX/Shutterstock

Very few 1970s rock stars adapted to the 1980s as effortlessly as Bruce Springsteen. While many of his peers struggled to find their way in the MTV age, Springsteen managed to reach a level of extreme popularity that even he probably couldn't have imagined — especially during the peak of Born to Run. He began the decade by scoring his first Top Ten hit with "Hungry Heart," and then after wowing critics with the stark Nebraska, he dropped Born in the U.S.A. Songs from that album dominated rock radio for well over a year, bringing his show to football stadiums all over the world. It was a level of success few solo stars have ever reached, and his followup record, Tunnel of Love, was a deliberate attempt to ratchet down the hype. He's on tour right now playing The River straight through, so we asked our readers to select their favorite Springsteen songs from the Reagan decade. Here are the results. 

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“Brilliant Disguise”

There's probably no topic Bruce Springsteen is less interested in talking about publicly than his short-lived marriage to Julianne Phillips. But after listening to Tunnel of Love, you really get a sense of how he was feeling when it was falling apart. "We stood at the altar," Springsteen sings on "Brilliant Disguise." "The gypsy swore our future was right/ But come the wee wee hours/ Well maybe baby the gypsy lied." The song was the first single from Tunnel of Love, hitting the airwaves about a week before the album arrived. It was promoted by a stark black-and-white video of Bruce singing the song in a kitchen. Breaking with MTV tradition, he actually sang the vocals live with each take, making it feel even more intimate and revealing. 

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“I’m on Fire”

Bruce Springsteen became so incredibly famous in the mid-1980s he probably could have pulled a David Bowie and started taking movie roles. (Imagine him playing, say, a gym teacher in the Breakfast Club. It would have been weird.) Anyway, he was smart enough to not go down that path, but the video for "I'm on Fire" gives you an idea of what it might have looked like. He portrays an auto mechanic that catches the eye of a wealthy woman clearly interested in some sort of illicit tryst. He drives out to her house, but he ultimately opts to resist the temptation. It's sort of a much darker look at Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" video. The song was the fourth single from Born in the U.S.A., and it hot Number 6 on the Hot 100. For whatever reason, he rarely drags it out in concert. 

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“The River”

Bruce Springsteen's younger sister Virginia was an 18-year-old high school senior in 1968 when her boyfriend accidentally got her pregnant. They got married and were forced to grow up very fast, and a little over a decade later, their plight was in Bruce's head when he wrote the title track to The River. He debuted it at the No Nukes concert in 1979 with his sister in the audience. She had no idea he had written a song about her. "Here I am totally exposed," she told writer Peter Ames Carlin. "I didn't like it at first – though now it's my favorite song." Amazingly, Virginia and her husband Mickey are still happily married nearly 50 years later. 

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