Everybody loves The Boss, and when it comes to 70s Bruce Springsteen songs, he certainly has decades’ worth of great music and loyal fans. So in this article, I thought it’d be fun to examine this decade of Bruce Springsteen and really find out which songs from the 1970s were Bruce’s best and most memorable.
The Best 70s Bruce Springsteen Songs
Let’s begin with 1973’s Rosalita.
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) (1973)
Rosalita is one of the many easily identifiable songs by Bruce Springsteen. The spirit and liveliness of this song is can only make you smile. This popular track starts out with a brilliant clash on the guitar, and then the drums and organ come into a hug-like harmony alongside of it. Not much longer afterward, the saxophone adds to the track, and the excellence of Springsteen’s voice graces the song.
As a song based on a true story in Springsteen’s life, Rosalita will always be among the most favored in his music catalog. It tells the story of forbidden love between a rock and roll musician and the young lady he is romancing at the time. Rosalita was inspired by the relationship that Springsteen had with his former girlfriend, Diane Lozito.
Someday we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny
But now you’re sad, your mama’s mad
And your papa says he knows that I don’t have any money
Oh, your papa says he knows that I don’t have any money
Oh, so your daddy says he knows that I don’t have any money
Well, tell him this is his last chance to get his daughter in a fine romance
Because a record company, Rosie, just gave me a big advance
In my opinion, Rosalita isn’t just a song about an unfavored love. It is also about the dark details of a struggling musician who is just starting out in their career. The song portrays the reality that most people who pick up a guitar professionally will go through financial struggles and will have to travel a lot in order to achieve even a snippet of success.
There is logic to the idea that, perhaps, the beginning of a rock star’s career is not the time to settle down and get married.
For You (1973)
This song is a heavy song about a man striving to save a damsel in distress who was contemplating suicide due to despair and hopelessness. For You is a powerful ballad that maintains its snazzy instrumental arrangement throughout the course of the track.
When the drums taper off in intensity and give the pairing of easy strums of the guitar and Springsteen’s vocals the room to make the key points of the lyrics heard, it is pure excellence.
Crawl into my ambulance, your pulse is getting weak
Oh reveal yourself all now to me, girl, while you’ve got the strength to speak
‘Cause they’re waiting for you at Bellevue with their oxygen masks
But I could give it all to you now, if only you could ask
Oh, and don’t call for your surgeon, even he says it’s too late
It’s not your lungs this time, it’s your heart that holds your fate
Incident on 57th Street (1973)
The piano followed by the strums of the guitar invites you into a few moments of relaxation and escape. When you close your eyes, you can envision the nightfall and a young man talking about his memories of working in the sex industry.
I love how the song talks about Spanish Johnny following a classic Spanish music introduction. You can’t help but feel like you are entering into a Mexican Cantina, while in that NYC setting at the same time. It’s a miracle of dream-like imagination that only Springsteen could create.
Incident on 57th Street is one of the greatest forms of the lyrical genius of Springsteen’s career. The brilliance of storytelling from start to finish, the perfect seamlessness of the tapping cymbals and drums, the strokes of the guitars throughout the song, and the spike of the tempo around the 4.40 mark delivers the near perfection of this song.
Racing in The Street (1978)
This iconic Springsteen Ballad provokes thoughts of the 69’ Chevy as the leading character of the song. The song is about a young man and his good friend who created their own fun and entertainment. Neither of the two favored their jobs nor had enough money to enjoy their lives as they saw fit. The two came together to build the iconic car in this song and began racing it as a way to make more cash.
The song also speaks about Sonny, the main character, getting into a relationship at that time. Not only does the relationship fail, but it results in him leaving her at home and being so inattentive that it causes her to fall into depression.
It’s an underlining theme that speaks to wanting to get unstuck from the mundane of everyday life so bad that when you find something that is entertaining, money-making, and gives you an edge in life, it can consume you in the worst of ways and hold you back from a higher quality life in every aspect.
To Sonny, however, the losses don’t matter and racing wins his heart.
It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City (1973)
Bruce Springsteen paints the perfect picture of the different demographics in New York City in this song. The soft piano throughout the track of It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City makes me want to stop everything that I am doing just to play attention to the underlining message of this song. Springsteen intentionally sets out to provide a deep and reverent meaning in this track.
New York City has always been a tough city to live in. And there are far more opportunities for a good man to break bad than most people are willing to admit. Springsteen used this song to defy the odds against morality warfare, and it set him apart as a preacher of rock and roll.
I was the king of the alley, mama, I could talk some trash
I was the prince of the paupers crowned downtown at the beggar’s bash
I was the pimp’s main prophet, I kept everything cool
Just a backstreet gambler with the luck to lose
And when the heat came down and it was left on the ground
Devil appeared like Jesus through the steam in the street
Showin’ me a hand I knew even the cops couldn’t beat
Factory is a country-style inspired song that features the iconic sound of a pedal-steel guitar. It is a song that is a personal tribute to Bruce Springsteen’s father (and the many heroes alike) that live the factory-work lifestyle.
This song is one of the shortest songs of his catalog, but it is, perhaps, the most meaningful. The tribute that Factory makes to the simple and hard-working blue-collar men of America makes it the lyrical genius it is.
This song speaks to the struggles of the lower to middle-class families that are led by these courageous men. Many are forced to make sacrifices in personal time, energy and are required to work long hours just to provide for their families. It is common for men of this caliber to work 40+ years at a mundane job that gets their family by, just to have minimal memories and experiences with those they love.
Once retirement is achieved, it is basically a brand new life for the factory-working man. And by then, it is simply too late to get precious moments back with one’s wife and kids.
Prove it All Night (1978)
The story of Prove it All Night presents the perfect representation of what goes on through the minds of young men when they are hungry and desperate to have a sexual relationship with their first love—or a young lady who is deemed “pure.” The all-consuming power of young love is brilliantly showcased in this track. It takes me back to the days when love and marriage was rooted in affection, infatuation, and intimacy, rather than a never-ending business-like arrangement.
I also appreciate how the song talks about the voices that go through a young woman’s head when making the decision to have sex as well. It is common for young men to be all about sex and long summer nights with the pretty “girl next door.”
For women, it’s a little different, yet pressure is real. The inner voices and turmoil of going back and forth between wanting to prove your love to your first boyfriend but maintaining your innocence is a common experience for most young girls faced with this decision.
Some argue it is a song about love, devotion, marriage and commitment. Either way you look at the song, Human touch will be happening all night between the two characters. But you can distinguish it yourself. Some of the lyrics to help you decide are:
Everybody’s got a hunger, a hunger they can’t resist
There’s so much that you want, you deserve much more than this
But if dreams came true, ah wouldn’t that be nice
But this ain’t no dream we’re living out through tonight
Ah girl you want it, you take it, you pay the price to
She’s The One (1975)
She’s The One is among the most memorable melodies in all of Bruce Springsteen’s catalog. This song is about the perfect woman that many men dream of and many women dream of being.
She’s The One is about that ideal woman coming into a man’s life and loving him enough to make all sources of bitterness and heaviness melt away in his life, changing the course of his life forever.
What makes the story complete is it talks about how that same woman is the very person who is essentially going to hurt him willingly in the end and deceive him. This simple song has one of the most effective and relatable stories that Bruce Springsteen could ever tell.
Spirit in the Night (1973)
The one Bruce Springsteen track you can find me singing at any time of day is Spirit in the Night. I can’t say how many grocery store lines have heard the tale of “Crazy Janey” while I was standing in them. Not only does the intro make you want to snap your fingers due to the feel-good jazzy instrumentals, it also takes you away in thought quickly compared to other Springsteen songs.
Although Spirit in the Night was his second single from Greetings from Asbury Park(and did not favor on the charts), this iconic song set the stage for Springsteen’s catalog of music going forward. This song showcased Springsteen as a storyteller in his songwriting, and every story would include characters, storylines and characteristics that would feed into a person’s nostalgia who considered the 1970’s monumental and memorable.
These talents, in addition to the folk-style instrumentals, are what contributed to the brilliance of Bruce Springsteen.
Born to Run (1975)
Born to Run is hands down the most iconic Bruce Springsteen song of the 1970’s. There is no stronger and more recognizable song front this era of his career than this track.
Born to Run has become a go-to song and personal anthem for so many people. There are far too many instances where fans simply feel stuck and complacent in their lives. People hate their jobs or are experiencing other hardships. The only thing that seems fitting is to intentionally run towards new and exciting opportunities. Born to Run inspires that to happen for so many people, which is why it’s likely in so many fans’ music playlists.
In the day, we sweat it out on the streets
Of a runaway American dream
At night, we ride through mansions of glory
In suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on Highway 9
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected and steppin’ out over the line
Oh, baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young
`Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run
Bruce Springsteen has had some major staying power over the years. Whether you’re looking for songs to rock out to, or perhaps you’re seeking some of the most uplighting Bruce Springsteen songs in his catalog, there’s no doubt an unending well of awesome 70s Bruce Springsteen songs that have stood the test of time.
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