Bruce Springsteen’s 40 greatest songs

An all-star cast pick The Boss' best moments…

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38 Dry Lightning
The Ghost Of Tom Joad album track, 1995

LYNDON MORGANS: The melody is nigh-on traditional, timeless as the desert the song unfolds in, and the imagery is pure Peckinpah, cowboy boots, coffee, a banging screen door, a horse kicking in the corral, thunder on the plain and dry lightning on the horizon line. Come on, admit it, even without The Boss’ voice, guitar and the rest of the lyric, that list already breaks your goddamn heart.
TOM McRAE: Like Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings”, this song makes me long for every lost love and every lost opportunity, and makes feeling tired and lonely just that little bit better.
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37 If I Should Fall Behind
Lucky Town album track, 1992

CHRIS ROBERTS: Any judgement call on Springsteen songs has to factor in the unparalleled live performances as much as the studio tracks. In recent years, the reunited E Street Band have often closed their marathon three-hour sets with this less-trumpeted number from the lacklustre Lucky Town album. One by one, each focal member of the troupe steps up to take a verse, and the stripped-down beauty of the song becomes preciously evident. In the process you learn, just by the way, that Little Steven, Nils Lofgren, Patti Scialfa and Clarence Clemons can all sing like gods, like ghosts, and any doubts about it being a sentimental set-piece are hushed. Then Springsteen himself sings the climax, and all is blue skies and desolation, burnt gold, crushed rubies.
JULIAN WILSON: When I last went to see Bruce, I couldn’t help but notice all the mullets in tight denims, one arm around the missus (who all looked like Bonnie Tyler), the other one punching the air along to the music. I always figured there were two types of Bruce fans, the ones you see at Bruce gigs and in videos, and the rest of us. By the time Bruce and the band had ended the main set with this song, sung together on one microphone, there was only one type of Bruce fan, and I could have been in the video myself – one arm around the girlfriend and I’m punching the air like my life depended on it. Absolutely brilliant.
NICK STEWART: A beautiful love song, with Springsteen admitting more than his fair share of frailty.
TIM ROBBINS: Pure romanticism from a married perspective. Makes you want to hug your wife.
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36 Independence Day
The River album track, 1980

MIKE SCOTT: It doesn’t get any better than this.
NICK JOHNSTONE: A song about the bond between fathers and sons. Every son grows up hero-worshipping his dad. And then the son comes of age and finds his dad is just another human being. And he has to take his father down from the pedestal. This song is about that journey. And how painful it is. And how you end up fighting all the time and competing and, eventually, there’s no room for both of you under the same roof. “Say goodbye, it’s independence day”, he sings, and you feel it in your blood. Springsteen is the only songwriter I can think of who has ever written convincingly about the relationship between fathers and sons.

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