Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen song)

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"Born to Run" is a song by American singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen, and the title song of his album Born to Run. Upon its release, music critic Robert Christgau took note of its wall of sound influence and called it "the fulfillment of everything 'Be My Baby' was about and lots more".[6]

"Born to Run"
Born to run single art.jpg
Single by Bruce Springsteen
from the album Born to Run
B-side"Meeting Across the River"
ReleasedAugust 25, 1975 (1975-08-25)
RecordedJanuary 8, 1974 (first take) May 21, 1974 (first demo) August 6, 1974[1]
Songwriter(s)Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen singles chronology
"Spirit in the Night"
"Born to Run"
"Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out"

"Born to Run" was Springsteen's first worldwide single release, although it achieved little initial success outside of the United States. Within the U.S. it received extensive airplay on progressive or album-oriented rock radio stations. The single was also Springsteen’s first top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100,[7] peaking at #23.

The song ranked number 21 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, the highest entry for a song by Springsteen, and is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.[8]


In late 1973, on the road in Tennessee, Springsteen awoke with the title "Born to Run", which he wrote down. According to Springsteen, this was the first spark of the later song.[9]

Written in the first person, the song is a love letter to a girl named Wendy, for whom the hot rod-riding protagonist seems to possess the passion to love, just not the patience. However, Springsteen has noted that it has a much simpler core: getting out of Freehold. U.S. Route 9, a highway passing through Freehold, is mentioned from the lyric "sprung from cages out on Highway 9".[10]

In his 1996 book Songs, Springsteen relates that while the beginning of the song was written on guitar around the opening riff, the song's writing was finished on piano, the instrument that most of the Born to Run album was composed on. The song was recorded in the key of E major.

In the period prior to the release of Born to Run Springsteen was becoming well-known (especially in his native northeast) for his live shows. "Born to Run" joined his concert repertoire well before the release of the album, being performed in concert by May 1974, if not earlier.

The first recording of the song was made by Allan Clarke of the British group the Hollies, although its release was delayed, only appearing after Springsteen's own now-famous version.[11]


In recording the song Springsteen first earned his noted reputation for perfectionism, laying down as many as eleven guitar tracks to get the sound just right. The recording process and alternate ideas for the song's arrangement are described in the Wings For Wheels documentary DVD included in the 2005 reissue Born to Run 30th Anniversary Edition package.

On January 8, 1974, Springsteen met his manager, Mike Appel, Clarence Clemons, and the other members of his band at 914 Sound Studios, Blauvelt, New York, to rehearse two new compositions, "Jungleland" and "Born to Run", both of which were lacking lyrics. He continued working on both songs at his home in New Jersey. The original backing track was recorded on May 21, 1974, after rehearsal sessions. Vocals were recorded on June 26, 1974. Recording was not completed until August 6, 1974, when mixing began on seventy-two tracks to the sixteen available at 914 Studios, including strings, more than one dozen guitar tracks, sax, drums, glockenspiel, bass, multiple keyboards and a variety of voices. The core instrumental backing track, which had been re-recorded, was mixed, along with numerous test arrangements, backing vocals, double-tracked vocals and strings, and finally the one chosen for release.[12] Springsteen and Mike Appel were the producers, and Louis Lahav was chief engineer. After finally going in the can, the tapes sat for a year, waiting for the rest of the album to be completed.

A pre-release version of the song, with a slightly different mix, was given by Appel to disc jockey Ed Sciaky of WMMR in Philadelphia, and played with Springsteen as his special guest on November 3, 1974, and within a couple of weeks this version was given to other progressive rock radio outlets in the Northeast as well, including WNEW-FM in New York City, WMMS in Cleveland, WBCN in Boston, and WVBR in Ithaca, New York. It became quite popular on these stations, and led to older cuts from Springsteen's first two albums being played, as anticipation built for the new album.[13] When Springsteen did a show at the Main Point, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, on February 5, 1975, with Sciaky as host, the crowd sang along to "Born to Run".

Music videosEdit

No music video was made for the original release of "Born to Run".

  • In 1987, a video was released to MTV and other channels, featuring a live performance of "Born to Run" from Springsteen and the E Street Band's 1984–1985 Born in the U.S.A. Tour, interspersed with clips of other songs' performances from the same tour. It closed with a "Thank you" message to Springsteen's fans.
  • In 1988, director Meiert Avis shot a video of an acoustic version of the song during the Tunnel of Love Express tour.

Both videos are included in the compilations Video Anthology / 1978-88 and The Complete Video Anthology / 1978-2000.


At the time of the single release, Billboard described "Born to Run" as "one of the best rock anthems to individual freedom ever created," describing it as "a monster song with a piledriver arrangement" that could become Springsteen's biggest hit yet.[14] Cash Box said that "Springsteen sounds like a cross between Roger McGuinn (from his Byrds days) and nobody else we've ever heard."[15]

In 1980 the New Jersey State Assembly passed a resolution naming "Born to Run" the "unofficial rock theme of our State's youth."[16]


Live performancesEdit

House lights on for a typical performance of "Born to Run". Hartford Civic Center, October 2, 2007.
"Born to Run" in its home state of New Jersey. Izod Center, May 21, 2009.

The song has been played at nearly every non-solo Springsteen concert since 1975 (although it was not included in the 2006 Sessions Band Tour). Most of the time the house lights are turned fully on and fans consistently sing along with Springsteen's signature wordless vocalizations throughout the song's performance.

The song has also been released in live versions on six albums or DVDs:

"Born to Run" was also performed as the second number of four during Springsteen and the E Street Band's halftime performance at Super Bowl XLIII.

On Jon Stewart's last episode as host of The Daily Show on August 6, 2015, Springsteen performed "Land of Hope and Dreams" and "Born to Run".


  • Frankie Goes To Hollywood covered this song in their debut album Welcome to the Pleasuredome in 1984.
  • Big Daddy, a band that specializes in recording popular modern songs in 1950s-style arrangements, performed a drastically re-arranged cover of "Born to Run" on their 1985 album "Meanwhile, Back in the States."

Live coversEdit

Track listingEdit

  1. "Born to Run" – 4:31
  2. "Meeting Across the River" – 3:18

The B-side was simply another cut from the album; Springsteen would not begin releasing unused tracks as B-sides until 1980.


In popular cultureEdit



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Italy (FIMI)[32] Gold 25,000 
United Kingdom (BPI)[33] Platinum 600,000 
United States (RIAA)[34] 2× Platinum 2,000,000 

  Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ a b Heylin, Clinton (2012). Song By Song. London: Penguin. Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  2. ^ Robert Wiersema (2011). Walk Like a Man: Coming of Age with the Music of Bruce Springsteen. Greystone Books Ltd. p. 85. ISBN 978-1-55365-845-0.
  3. ^ Susie Derkins (2002). Bruce Springsteen. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-8239-3522-2.
  4. ^ Basham, Peter (2005). The Pocket Essential: Bruce Springsteen. Oldcastle Books. p. 12. ISBN 978-1-9030-4797-2.
  5. ^ John M. Borack (2007). Shake Some Action - The Ultimate Guide To Power Pop. Not Lame Recording Company. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-9797714-0-8.
  6. ^ Christgau, Robert (September 22, 1975). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved July 8, 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Bruce Springsteen – Chart history". Billboard. Archived from the original on October 19, 2016. Retrieved October 10, 2016.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 17, 2010. Retrieved January 12, 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ Carlin, Peter Ames (2012). Bruce. London: Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  10. ^ Barton, Laura (October 18, 2017). "10 of the best Bruce Springsteen landmarks in New Jersey". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  11. ^ Vankin, Jonathan (August 25, 2017). "Bruce Springsteen 'Born To Run' — 5 Facts You Never Knew About The Historic Album Released 42 Years Ago Today". Inquisitr. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  12. ^ Carlin, Peter Ames (2012). Bruce. New York: Simon and Schuster. Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  13. ^ Zeitz, Joshua (August 25, 2015). "How Bruce Springsteen's 'Born to Run' Captured the Decline of the American Dream – The Atlantic". The Atlantic. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  14. ^ "Top Single Picks" (PDF). Billboard. September 13, 1975. p. 70. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
  15. ^ "CashBox Singles Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. September 13, 1975. p. 15. Retrieved December 11, 2021.
  16. ^ Lifton, Dave. "When 'Born to Run' Almost Was Unofficial Theme of Jersey's Youth". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved March 29, 2022.
  17. ^ "The 200 Best Songs of the 1970s". Pitchfork. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  18. ^ "885 Countdown: Greatest Songs". WXPN. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  19. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. April 7, 2011. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  20. ^ "Q - 1001 best songs ever (2003)". (in Dutch). Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 17, 2010. Retrieved March 16, 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ Whitaker, Dave (March 7, 2001). "Dave's Music Database: The RIAA/NEA's Top 365 Songs of the 20th Century". Dave's Music Database. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  23. ^ "The 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century". NPR. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  24. ^ "Superchunk Share 'Born to Run' Cover Featuring Trail of Dead, Crooked Fingers". Pitchfork. August 25, 2015. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  25. ^ Niven, John (2011). The second Coming.
  26. ^ Hill, David (July 9, 2015). "American Pharoah's owner wants Bruce Springsteen to play on Haskell day". Fox Sports. Retrieved August 20, 2015.
  27. ^ n/a, n/a (June 26, 2018). "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Millennial beats veteran Democrat". BBC News. Retrieved June 30, 2018.
  28. ^ "Top 25 Singles of 1970". Archived from the original on June 2, 2016. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  29. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 24, No. 13, December 20 1975". Archived from the original on February 16, 2016. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  30. ^ "CASH BOX Top 100 Singles". Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  31. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 24, No. 14, December 27 1975". Archived from the original on February 16, 2016. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  32. ^ "Italian single certifications – Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved October 3, 2020. Select "2019" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Born to Run" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
  33. ^ "British single certifications – Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved March 25, 2022.
  34. ^ "American single certifications – Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved May 25, 2022.

External linksEdit