Home Music Music Lists

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

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

Brilliant and big-hearted, Bruce Springsteen is as close as a rock musician gets to being a hero. But heroes have heroes of their own, and Bruce has never been shy about giving a shout-out. That generous impulse extends to his newest album, High Hopes, which features covers of tracks by Springsteen faves the Havalinas and Suicide. Bruce even heralded the album with a pre-release statement praising some of his key influences.

100 Greatest Artists: Bruce Springsteen

So in the High Hopes spirit of inclusiveness and generosity, we've compiled a list of Springsteen's 25 biggest heroes: the musicians, friends, filmmakers, authors and activists who mean the most to this man who means so much to us. 

By Andy Greene and David Marchese

Peter Noble/Redferns

Suicide’s Alan Vega

It's quite possible that Bruce Springsteen would have never recorded 1982's super low-fi Nebraska without the influence of the New York punk group Suicide. "They had that two-piece synthesizer-voice thing," Springsteen told Rolling Stone in 1984. "They had one of the most amazing songs I ever heard called 'Frankie Teardrop'. That's one of the most amazing records I think I ever heard." When Suicide frontman Alan Vega first heard Springsteen's "State Trooper" he actually thought he was listening to one of his own recordings. Bruce returned the favor by covering Suicide's haunting "Dream Baby Dream" most every night on his 2005 Devils & Dust tour, and he finally released a studio version of the song on 2014's High Hopes. Springsteen has said that "[Suicide] are underground masters," and that "they should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hank Williams

Delivering the keynote address at the 2012 South by Southwest music conference, Springsteen explained how, as the Eighties approached, he turned to music other than rock and pop in search of emotional depth, and found it in the music of country icon Williams. "I remember sitting in my little apartment," he said, "listening to Hank Williams' Greatest Hits over and over. And I was trying to crack his code because at first it just didn’t sound good to me. . .But slowly, slowly my ears became accustomed to its beautiful simplicity and its darkness and depth. And Hank Williams went from archival to alive for me before my, before my very eyes. And I lived, I lived on that for awhile in the late Seventies."

Springsteen also interpolated lyrics from Williams songs in 1980's "The River," 1982's "Mansion on a Hill," and 1984's era-defining "Born in the U.S.A."

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Warren Zevon

Around 1977, Springsteen's manager Jon Landau told Warren Zevon that Bruce was thinking about writing a song called "Janey Needs a Shooter." Warren thought he said "Jeannie," and he decided to write the first verse himself before sitting down with Springsteen and fleshing it out with him. The result was one of Zevon's most beloved songs, but it also strengthened the bond between the two great songwriters. When Zevon learned he had less than a year to live in 2002, he headed into the studio to record The Wind, his final album. Springsteen guested on the two of the songs, and the old friends spent some real quality time together before Zevon died from cancer. 

Show Comments