Singing ABOUT Springsteen: 20 songs where he’s in the lyrics

Eric Church had a hit single in 2012 with his song, “Springsteen.”

Most Bruce Springsteen fans know that several years ago, Eric Church had a big hit (No. 1 Country, Top 20 Pop) with a song titled “Springsteen.”

They may not know, though, that Springsteen has appeared in the lyrics of many other songs, before or after then.

Sometimes he’s a character, as in Randy Newman’s “My Life Is Good” or Dan Bern’s “Talkin’ Woody, Bob, Bruce & Dan Blues.” Sometimes, there’s just a casual reference to his music (as in Tom Robinson’s “Grey Cortina” or Ian Hunter’s “Listen to the Eight Track”) or the way he looks (as in Lady Antebellum’s “Stars Tonight”).

He’s been used as a symbol for American ideals (Rodney Atkins’ “It’s America”) and songwriting excellence (“Kid Inside” by John Mellencamp, back when he was known as John Cougar). Rick Springfield even joked about people confusing him with his fellow rock star in his “Bruce.”

So here are 20 of the songs, in no particular order. My criteria was simply that the song had to mention “Bruce,” “Springsteen” and/or “The Boss,” and clearly be about him. I didn’t include songs that just refer to one of his songs, or parody his style. (Update: Although, as an astute reader points out, I screwed up by including David Nail’s “Sound of a Million Dreams,” which does not mention Springsteen by name. Sorry about that!)

(Update: For Part 2 of the series, click HERE.)

Here are the songs and, for each one, the mention:

Eric Church:
“Springsteen.”

“Funny how a melody sounds like a memory/Like the soundtrack to a July Saturday night, Springsteen”

Prefab Sprout: “Cars and Girls”

“Brucie dreams life’s a highway, too many roads bypass my way… But look at us now, quit driving, some things hurt more, much more than cars and girls.”

Dan Bern: “Talkin’ Woody, Bob, Bruce & Dan Blues”

“When Woody Guthrie was sick and dying/Bob Dylan visited him as he was lying/In a hospital bed Bob sang him songs/Woody smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you come, you belong here, go forth and be the voice of your generation’/Well, above Beverly Hills one night real late/I snuck past a security gate … Climbed up a barbed wire fence and over … To the home of Bruce Springsteen … I asked him could he think of us as Bob and Woody.”

Randy Newman: “My Life Is Good”

“You know what he said to me? … He said, ‘Rand, I’m tired/How would you like to be the Boss for a while?’ ”

Loudon Wainwright III: “Talking New Bob Dylan”

“I got a deal and so did John Prine/Steve Forbert and Springsteen, all in a line/They were lookin’ for you, signin’ up others/We were new Bob Dylans, your dumbass kid brothers … we still get together every week at Bruce’s house.”

Rick Springfield: “Bruce”

“As he pulled a piece paper for me to sign from his vest/He said, ‘I thought “Born to Run” was one of your best’/’Aw, wait a minute, man, who do you think I am?’/He answered, ‘Mr. Springsteen, you’re a famous man.’ ”

John Cougar (Mellencamp): “Kid Inside”

“It’s getting hard to justify my position/When everything I’m sayin’ can be said better by Mr. Springsteen.”

Rodney Atkins: “It’s America”

“It’s a high school prom, it’s a Springsteen song, it’s a ride in a Chevrolet/It’s a man on the moon and fireflies in June and kids sellin’ lemonade/It’s cities and farms, it’s open arms, one nation under God/It’s America.”

Warren Zevon: “The Indifference of Heaven”

“They say, ‘Everything’s all right’/They say, ‘Better days are near’/They tell us These are the good times/But they don’t live around here/Billy and Christie don’t/Bruce and Patti don’t/They don’t live around here.”

Bowling for Soup: “1985”

“Since Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, way before Nirvana/There was U2 and Blondie, and music still on MTV/Her two kids in high school, they tell her that she’s uncool/’Cause she’s still preoccupied with 1985.”

Deaf Havana: “22”

“I’m somewhere between happy and okay/With Springsteen in my headphones singing mockingly away/Oh, Brucie, baby, I’ve seen better days.”

Titus Andronicus: “The Battle of Hampton Roads”

“I’ve destroyed everything that wouldn’t make me more like Bruce Springsteen/So I’m going back to New Jersey, I do believe they’ve had enough of me.”

Ian Hunter: “Listen to the Eight Track”

“Sometimes I get a woman in here/And I put on Bruce Springsteen’s new double album/And then, just when everything’s getting hot/I start turning the volume right down low/Baby, let me snuggle right next to you.”

Tom Robinson: “Grey Cortina”

“Fur-lined seats and lettered windscreen/Elbow on the windowsill/Eight track blazing Brucie Springsteen/Bomber jacket, dressed to kill.”

Frank Turner: “Redemption”

“I was walking home to my house through the snow from the station/When the Springsteen came clear in my headphones with a pertinent question/Oh, is love really real and can any of us hope for redemption?/Or are we all merely biding our time down to the lonely conclusions?”

Joe D’Urso: “Rock and Roll Call”

“Bruce is the Boss, Elvis is the King, Ol’ Blue Eyes, he’s the Chairman of the Board, and Dylan’s the Muse, he’s always the muse.”

The Felice Brothers: “Saturday Night”

“I ain’t the Boss but I’m his illegitimate son/’Cause baby, I was born to run.”

Weezer: “Heart Songs”

“Mr Springsteen said he had a hungry heart.”

David Nail: “Sound of a Million Dreams”

“My 18th summer I was a cocky up-and-comer/Crankin’ up ‘Born to Run’ ”

Lady Antebellum: “Stars Tonight”

“Girls in their heels and a skinny pair of blue jeans/Boys in black pearl buttons looking just like Springsteen.”

16 thoughts on “Singing ABOUT Springsteen: 20 songs where he’s in the lyrics

  1. ‘Cause it ain’t the glory days with Bruce Springsteen
    I’m not a virgin so I know I’ll make Madonna scream
    You hated Michael and Prince all the way ever since
    If their beats were made of meat, then they would have to be mince
    Rock the bells

    — LL Cool J, “Rock the Bells”

  2. A great song about Springsteen but never mentions his name: Cash Brothers – “Nebraska”

    “I got nothing on my mind, I got nothing to do
    I’m just driving around listening to Nebraska”

  3. He’s the last of the all night, do right
    Hey Rosalita won’t you come out tonight
    He’s the last of the hard-core troubadours

    “Hard Core Troubadour,” Steve Earle

  4. Lots of interesting references. Worst by far is Church; thinking that just naming a song after Bruce somehow buys him credibility. Saddest is Mellencamp; while he would emerge a few years later as a great songwriter (perhaps even rivaling Bruce in the 80s and 90s) in 1979 the lyric was all too true.

  5. The Traveling Wilbury’s ‘Tweeter and the Monkey Man’ wouldn’t fit Jay’s criteria, but it has to be the champion of indirect references.

  6. Pingback: Singing ABOUT Springsteen, Part 2: Twenty more songs - NJArts.netNJArts.net

  7. Dave Warner corrcet weight’ album @ dave warner .com ” song- john arlott makes me chuckle’ – ‘bruce springsteen wouldn’t have me as his main protagonist, I’m far to ordinary”
    the whole album is a gem.

  8. If I don’t Make It Back- Tracy Lawrence
    “Drive my Camaro 90 miles per hour down Red Rock Road with Born To Run blasting on the radio”.

  9. Here’s one left out, by the great singer/songwriter Lori McKenna, “All it Takes.”:
    5 strings on a 6 string
    Initials on a gold ring
    Anything Bruce Springsteen…
    Sometimes — that’s all it takes…
    To remind me of you

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