It's The One: 45 Years Of Bruce Springsteen's 'Born To Run'

Bruce Springsteen in 1975


Photo: Fin Costello/Redferns



It's The One: 45 Years Of Bruce Springsteen's 'Born To Run'

The Boss' third effort brought new levels of poetic phrasing, symphonic instrumentation and heartfelt slice-of-life narratives to heartland rock, leading many to deem it one of the greatest albums of all time

GRAMMYs/Aug 21, 2020 - 05:31 pm

With their first two LPs—Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, both from 1973—Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band cemented themselves as masters of both contemplative singer/songwriter elegance and triumphant orchestral rowdiness. Despite the mostly positive critical praise they garnered, however, neither record reaped the financial success and mainstream devotion the group deserved. Understandably, this led to a lot of internal and external frustrations and doubts, so all parties involved knew that—as the saying goes—the third time had to be the charm.

Luckily, 1975's Born to Run proved to be precisely that, launching Springsteen and company into the hearts and minds of virtually the entire world. All of its songs became beloved radio/concert/pop culture staples—thanks in part to a $250,000 marketing campaign by Columbia Records—and it ended up not only reaching the #3 spot on the Billboard 200, but earning praise from Rolling Stone, the New York Times and The Village Voice. Since then, its ability to bring new levels of poetic phrasing, symphonic instrumentation and heartfelt slice-of-life narratives (regarding blue-collar struggles, youthful romantic idealism and urban rebellion) to heartland rock has led many to deem it one of the greatest albums of all time.

Given the immense pressure everyone felt for Born to Run to be a hit, it's no surprise that it took the band 14 months to complete (with almost half of that time spent just on its iconic title track). It would be the last album co-produced by Mike Appel, as well as the first co-produced by music critic turned manager Jon Landau (who, in 1974, famously stated that Springsteen was the future of rock and roll in the midst of others aptly, if reductively, calling him the "new" or "next" Bob Dylan). Many of the same musicians stayed on, with the most significant additions being drummer Max Weinberg, pianist Roy Bittan, and guitarist/arranger Steven Van Zandt (who'd played with Springsteen in prior bands and got the gig after doing the horn arrangements for "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out").

Together, they created a succinct yet exploratory sequence whose Phil Spector-esque "wall of sound" approach built upon everything its two predecessors did so exceptionally (humble yet piercing odes like "Lost in the Flood" and full-bodied celebrations like "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)"). That achievement, coupled with a more established conceptual throughline involving separate but similar characters existing around the same places and striving similar types of freedom, makes it clear why Born to Run is still so revered and idiosyncratic.

Each of its eight songs feels like a cinematic musical adaption of a resonant short story, and Springsteen designed each side to begin hopefully and end sorrowfully. Case in point: "Thunder Road," an exhilarating opener in which the unnamed speaker makes a final plea to his girlfriend, Mary, to run away with him. The instantly comforting blend of Springsteen's harmonica and Bittan's piano makes it seem like the story is set in a Steinbeck novel, and Springsteen’s backhanded compliment—"You ain’t a beauty / But hey, you're alright"—actually conjures Shakespeare's "Sonnet 130" in its blunt but realistic testament to authentic attraction. Obviously, its robust and catchy evolution is mesmerizing, foreshadowing the motif of invigorating better life daydreaming that spans the whole album (especially the title track).

Afterward, the origin of the E Street Band is explored in the sleekly nuanced, intricate, and fun—though also subtly mournful—"Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," which evokes the rock 'n’'roll vibe of Springsteen's sophomore effort. In contrast, "Night" recalls the poignant urgency of his debut collection, with its tale of a disheartened blue-collar worker seeking the nighttime joys of drag racing and female companionship resulting in one of Springsteen's most infectiously encouraging choruses. Then, "Backstreets" concludes Side One as a downer, with Bittan's pianowork hinting at the measured misfortune he'd bring to "Jungleland." Springsteen's reflection on the downfall of a plutonic friendship with a woman named Terry is full of coarse, almost inebriated wildness; meanwhile, the band punctuates each emotion with luscious accompaniment (including an imperfect yet earnest guitar solo).

Of course, Side Two explodes with “Born to Run,” which connects to “Thunder Road” not only in its exuberance, but even in its melodies and sentiments. Interestingly, it’s the only track that Weinberg and Bittan didn’t play on since it was recorded before drummer Earnest Carter and pianist David Sancious left the band. Every element is hypnotic, blissful, and legendary; from its sparkly timbres and wholly impassioned serenading, to saxophonist Clarence Clemons' solo and the subsequent deceptively complex breakdown, "Born to Run" is pretty much perfect.  

Luckily, the LP maintains that magic, with the dynamic yet relatively straightforward "She's the One" exposing an irresistible femme fatal before the penultimate "Meeting Across the River" acts as a decorative and lowkey tale of a low-level criminal unsuccessfully going for one last score. Cleverly, it also moves us from New Jersey to New York, where the record's closing masterpiece, "Jungleland," takes place. Combining Dylan-esque ponderings with early Chicago-esque arrangements, its like Springsteen's three-act take on West Side Story. It moves from a gorgeously intense chronicle of gang violence to a devastatingly serene aftermath, wherein bittersweet tapestries and appropriately timed escalations guide Springsteen’s wise but disenfranchised commentary. It’s incredibly tasteful and believable, with the line “And the poets down here / Don't write nothing at all / They just stand back and let it all be” standing out as particularly profound and hard-hitting.

From the huge concerts that surrounded it, to the multitude of album cover parodies/homages and industry honors that followed, Born to Run is rightly considered a benchmark for its creator, decade and genre overall. Expectedly, its winning formula inspired an even more mature and downtrodden follow-up, 1978’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, as well as the aesthetics of countless proteges. It set new standards for how lyrical, multifaceted, and thematic rock music could be, and although it's nearly half a century old, it truly hasn't aged a day.       

No Self Control: An Oral History Of 'Peter Gabriel III'

Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More



Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2019 - 10:04 pm

In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.

"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.

Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.

"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."

Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American. 

"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."

Mumu Fresh On What She Learned From Working With The Roots, Rhyming & More

Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards


Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.

Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream

Brittany Howard

Photo: C Brandon/Redferns/Getty Images


Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream

Proceeds from the event will be go toward loans to small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses, via Accion Opportunity Fund

GRAMMYs/Jun 16, 2020 - 04:13 am

This Saturday, June 20, artists including Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz and more will come together for Small Business Live, a livestream fundraiser event for small businesses facing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Proceeds from the livestream will go to Accion Opportunity Fund to support small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses.

“Entrepreneurs of color are denied credit more often and charged higher rates for money they borrow to fund their businesses. We need to accelerate support to underserved businesses in order to reach our full potential,” Accion Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia said. “We have to decide what we want our Main Streets to look like when this is over, and we must act decisively to keep small businesses alive and ready to rebuild. This is a fun way to do something really important. Everyone’s support will make a huge difference to small business owners, their families and employees who have been devastated by this pandemic, the recession, and centuries of racism, xenophobia and oppression.”

Tune in for Small Business Live Saturday, June 20 from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. EDT on The site also provides a full schedule of programs and links to watch the livestream on all major digital platforms. To learn more about Accion Opportunity Fund, visit the organization's website.

Ivan Barias On Silence As Complicity, Holding Major Labels Accountable & How To Be A Non-Black Latinx Ally

DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs

DJ Khaled, Samantha Smith and John Legend

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images


DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs

DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle and John Legend take home Best Rap/Sung Performance at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Jan 27, 2020 - 09:05 am

DJ Khaled, featuring Nipsey Hussle and John Legend, has won Best Rap/Sung Performance for "Higher" at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards. The single was featured on DJ Khaled's 2019 album Father of Asahd and featured Hussle's vocals and Legend on the piano. DJ Khaled predicted the track would win a GRAMMY.

"I even told him, 'We're going to win a GRAMMY.' Because that's how I feel about my album," DJ Khaled told Billboard. "I really feel like not only is this my biggest, this is very special."

After the release of the song and music video -- which was filmed before Hussle's death in March -- DJ Khaled announced all proceeds from "Higher" will go to Hussle's children.

DJ Khaled and co. beat out fellow category nominees Lil Baby & Gunna ("Drip Too Hard"), Lil Nas X ("Panini"), Mustard featuring Roddy Ricch ("Ballin") and Young Thug featuring J. Cole & Travis Scott ("The London"). Hussle earned a second posthumous award at the 62nd GRAMMYs for Best Rap Performance for "Racks In The Middle." 

Along with Legend and DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin, Roddy Ricch and YG paid tribute to Hussle during the telecast, which concluded with "Higher."

Check out the complete 62nd GRAMMY Awards nominees and winners list here.