Bruce Springsteen will turn 70 in 70 days — on Sept. 23 — and in honor of that, NJArts.net has created a special project: A list of his Top 70 songs, restricted to songs recorded and released after his 40th birthday (Sept. 23, 1989).
I will be revealing the songs, one per day, between now and then, starting at the bottom of the list. The No. 1 song will be posted on his birthday. Each song will have its own post, and I will add the links here as they are revealed.
I know, I know: There are already too many Springsteen lists in the world. But I thought this one would be different, and worth doing, because it could shed light on some gems Springsteen has created over the last three decades that have not received much attention or, in some cases, have been almost totally forgotten.
I am not making the argument that Springsteen’s recordings, post-1989, are better than the ones he made when he was younger. Few, if any, Springsteen fans would. Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town remain my favorite Springsteen albums. I’m not going to argue that The Rising is better than The River, or anything like that.
But Springsteen has remained prolific and musically adventurous since turning 40, and it’s very possible that he has written more quality songs, between 40 and 70, than any other rock star or singer-songwriter. It seemed like a good time to acknowledge that, and to take a closer look at some of those songs.
Some ground rules: I decided not to include covers, so you won’t be seeing them here. I also excluded songs that were written and initially recorded before 1989 but not finished and/or released until after then. “This Hard Land” and “Murder Incorporated,” for instance — Born in the USA outtakes that were first released in 1995 — will not be on the list for that reason.
That leaves about 150 eligible songs, by the way.
So here it is. Feel free to write about which post-1989 songs are your favorites, and why, in the comments section below.
1: “If I Should Fall Behind,” from Lucky Town
2: “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” from The Ghost of Tom Joad
3: “Streets of Philadelphia,” from Philadelphia (Music From the Motion Picture)
4: “My City of Ruins,” from The Rising
5: “Long Time Comin’,” from Devils & Dust
6: “The Rising,” from The Rising
7: “Youngstown,” from The Ghost of Tom Joad
8: “Long Walk Home,” from Magic
9: “Land of Hope and Dreams,” from Live in New York City
10: “Moonlight Motel,” from Western Stars
11: “Living Proof,” from Lucky Town
12: “Back in Your Arms,” from Tracks
13: “You’re Missing,” from The Rising
14: “Tucson Train,” from Western Stars
15: “Last to Die,” from Magic
16: “Devil’s Arcade,” from Magic
17: “Western Stars,” from Western Stars
18: “Radio Nowhere,” from Magic
19: “Matamoros Banks,” from Devils & Dust
20: “Human Touch,” from Human Touch
21. “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day,” from The Rising
22: “Into the Fire,” from The Rising
23: “Jack of All Trades,” from Wrecking Ball
24: “Frankie Fell in Love,” from High Hopes
25: “My Beautiful Reward,” from Lucky Town
26: “American Skin (41 Shots),” from Live in New York City
27: “Devils & Dust,” from Devils & Dust
28: “Straight Time,” from The Ghost of Tom Joad
29: “My Lucky Day,” from Working on a Dream
30: “Stones,” from Western Stars
31: “Rocky Ground,” from Wrecking Ball
32: “Hello Sunshine,” from Western Stars
33: “We Are Alive,” from Wrecking Ball
34: “The Wall,” from High Hopes
35: “Girls in Their Summer Clothes,” from Magic
36: “Across the Border,” from The Ghost of Tom Joad
37: “Book of Dreams,” from Lucky Town
38: “Highway 29,” from The Ghost of Tom Joad
39: “Blood Brothers,” from Greatest Hits
40: “American Land,” from We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (American Land Edition)
41: “Wrecking Ball,” from Wrecking Ball
42: “Mary’s Place,” from The Rising
43: “Working on a Dream,” from Working on a Dream
44: “Happy,” from Tracks
45: “All the Way Home,” from Devils & Dust
46: “Further On (Up the Road),” from The Rising
47: “Livin’ in the Future,” from Magic
48: “Freehold,” from Freehold, NJ, 1996: Saint Rose of Lima School Gym
49: “Shackled and Drawn,” from Wrecking Ball
50: “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On),” Human Touch
51: “I’ll Work for Your Love,” from Magic
52: “Souls of the Departed,” from Lucky Town
53: “You’ve Got It,” from Wrecking Ball
54: “The New Timer,” from The Ghost of Tom Joad
55: “You’ll Be Comin’ Down,” from Magic
56: “The Wayfarer,” from Western Stars
57: “Gloria’s Eyes,” from Human Touch
58: “The Long Goodbye,” from Human Touch
59: “Hey Blue Eyes,” from American Beauty (EP)
60: “Worlds Apart,” from The Rising
61: “Leavin’ Train,” from Tracks
62: “Life Itself,” from Working on a Dream
63: “Paradise,” from The Rising
64: “Good Eye,” from Working on a Dream
65: “Your Own Worst Enemy,” from Magic
66: “Tomorrow Never Knows,” from Working on a Dream
67: “Cross My Heart,” from Human Touch
68: “Heaven’s Wall,” from High Hopes
69: “I’ll Stand by You,” from Blinded by the Light (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
70: “Drive Fast (The Stuntman),” from Western Stars
Here is a Spotify Playlist for 69 of the songs. (“Freehold” is not available on Spotify.)
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The Rising actually is better than The River. No need to argue.
Happy and Back In Your Arms from Tracks
I like the list so far. Hoping to see some of the top spots occupied by Devil’s Arcade, The Line, Long Time Coming, Brothers Under the Bridge, & Moonlight Motel. I don’t wanna even SEE those titles before we get to #30.
Like the concept of the list. Across the Border (off Joad) has to be in the Top 5 (or no lower than 10) as it’s one of the 10 best of his career. There’s a beauty to it lyrically and musically that is rarely matched.
Others that I love that should be in the Top 10-15: Land of Hope & Dreams (all that is righteous on E Street encapsulized into one song)
Real World (from the passion of the initial Christic Institute performances to the soulfulness of the Human Touch version it’s a great one)
Back in Your Arms
This Life (one of his great relationship songs about growing old together with Beach Boys-esque harmonies)
Long Walk Home
If I Should Fall Behind
Land of Hope and Dreams should definitely be in the top 5.
Our favourite song: Two for the road.
Not eligible for this list as it’s a “Tunnel of Love” outtake. List is only for 1989-2019.
This is so good, Jay. Thank you! And now I see I must buy the soundtrack to Blinded. I love I’ll Stand By.
As a massive Bruce’s fan, I have really appreciated and enjoyed this list, especially because I had the chance to go back into the details of many songs. Bruce’s discography is humongous but focusing on the last 30 years was an original and solid idea. Cool, really!
(I’d like someone to do something similar for all the unreleased outtakes…).
being a Bruce’s Fan, which stands for notoriously choosy and demanding pain in the arse type of fan, I have just a couple of complaints to make:
First and foremost, the lack of “the Wrestler” from the list.
Secondly, the lack of “the wrestler” from the list :-)
I would have chosen a couple of different songs off Western Stars and moved some tracks up or down the list, but you know, that’s just unimportant comparing to this very remarkable celebration for our man’s 70th birthday.
Where the hell is “The Fuse”? Like a miniature Tennessee Williams play attached to a hypnotically driving rhythm, it’s one of his top songs ever (the version from the closing credits of “25th Hour” doubly so) yet there’s no sign of it in this list…