NJArts.net names ‘If I Should Fall Behind’ best Springsteen song of last 30 years

Springsteen 70 If I Should Fall Behind

The cover of Bruce Springsteen’s single, “If I Should Fall Behind.”

For the last 70 days, I have been doing one post a day on my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs of the last 30 years. And today, on The Boss’ 70 birthday, I am finally posting the No. 1 song: “If I Should Fall Behind.”

For an explanation of the project, and the complete list (with links to all the posts), click here.

It has been a wonderful experience doing these posts. It gave me an excuse to delve deeply into all of Springsteen’s music of the last 30 years (I listened to every one of the 150 or so eligible songs at least once, and spent many hours relistening to the 70 songs that made the list). Some songs — especially ones that Springsteen has rarely or never performed in concert — I had, frankly, forgotten about. And of course, many of the songs I had already loved, but this project gave me an excuse to take a deep dive and learn as much about each one as I possibly could. The web site brucebase.wikidot.com was an invaluable resource. So was Brian Hiatt’s book, “Bruce Springsteen: The Stories Behind the Songs.”

I tried, as much as I could, to make the list without prejudice. In other words, I didn’t want to include a song just because Springsteen made it the title track of an album, or released it as a single, or has performed it in concert a lot.

I know people were, and will be, surprised by some of my inclusions, such as “Good Eye,” “Gloria’s Eyes,” “Heaven’s Wall,” “Working on a Dream,” “You’ve Got It” and “Leavin’ Train.” And, of course, it will be surprising to some that I left certain songs off the list (“Lucky Town,” “Better Days,” “Lonesome Day,” “Empty Sky,” “We Take Care of Our Own,” “Secret Garden,” “Chasin’ Wild Horses,” “Sundown,” “Kingdom of Days”). That’s inevitable in a list such as this one. You can’t please anyone.

That said, of course it’s all subjective, and if I were starting again and relistening one more time, I would undoubtedly make some different choices. Even as I was writing the posts, I was modifying my song order, up to the last week.

But the idea isn’t for the list to be definitive: no list can be. It’s just a vehicle, really, to take a closer look at these songs, and try to sum up Springsteen’s last 30 years as a recording artist.

For those interested, here’s how Springsteen’s studio albums of the last 30 years rank on this list. (We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions is not here because I excluded cover songs from this project, and that album is all-covers). This album ranking was made by given each song on the list a number (from 70, for No. 1 … to 1, for No. 70), and adding them up by album:

1: The Rising (354)
2: Magic (329)
3: Western Stars (268)
4. The Ghost of Tom Joad (261)
5: Lucky Town (229)
6: Wrecking Ball (196)
7: Devils & Dust (188)
8: Human Touch (103)
9: Working on a Dream (91)
10: High Hopes (87)

The list above doesn’t give Wrecking Ball credit for “Land of Hope and Dreams” and High Hopes credit for “American Skin (41 Shots)” and “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” since those songs appeared in different form on earlier albums. If you add those songs to those albums’ totals, the order is a little different:

1: The Rising (354)
2: Magic (329)
3: Western Stars (268)
4. The Ghost of Tom Joad (261)
5: Wrecking Ball (258)
6: Lucky Town (229)
7: High Hopes (201)
8: Devils & Dust (188)
9: Human Touch (103)
10: Working on a Dream (91)

Here is a Spotify playlist for 69 of the songs (“Freehold” is not available on Spotify). Please feel free to let me know what you think about my choices in the comments section below.

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