‘Because the Night,’ Patti Smith Group

The cover of Patti Smith's single, "Because the Night."

The cover of Patti Smith’s single, “Because the Night.”

Bruce Springsteen doesn’t often collaborate with other songwriters. But he did co-write the biggest hit of his fellow New Jersey rock icon Patti Smith’s career, the mysterious and passionate “Because the Night.”

That wasn’t the plan when he began working on the song. But that’s what happened.

Springsteen started writing the song for his 1978 Darkness on the Edge of Town album but either never finished it, or thought it wouldn’t be a good fit for Darkness. The album’s engineer, Jimmy Iovine (now a leading music industry executive), happened to be working in a different room of the same studio (The Record Plant in New York) with Smith at the same time, producing her Easter album. Iovine suggested she finish it, and while she resisted at first, she did eventually do so.

“I was having a long-distance romance with Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith, who later became my husband,” Smith explained in the 2010 documentary, “The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town.” “He was supposed to call me at night, and (one night) I waited for him to call for hours. I thought, ‘Well, I’ll listen to that darn song.’ It was so accessible, it had an anthemic tone. … I kept letting it loop and play, and I still tried to resist it, but I filled in the blanks. And in the blanks, it tells the story of me waiting for Fred to call, and of my love for Fred. … By the time he called, I had written my share of the lyrics.”

Springsteen joined Smith at one of her New York shows in December 1977 for the song’s live debut; Easter came out in March 1978, and “Because the Night,” released as a single in April, became the biggest hit of her career, peaking at No. 13. Check out a 1978 television performance of it, below.

Beginning in May 1978, Springsteen began performing it at his own concerts, too (sticking close to his original version, though). He still performs it semi-regularly, to this day.

Still, when he released a collection of Darkness on the Edge of Town outtakes in 2010, he used his original music, but re-recorded his vocals, with Smith’s words.

New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.


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