Born To Run

Album: Born To Run (1975)
Charted: 16 23
  • Springsteen played this for the first time on May 9, 1974 when he opened for Bonnie Raitt at Harvard Square. Rock critic Jon Landau was at the show and wrote in Boston's Real Paper: "I saw rock and roll's future - and its name is Bruce Springsteen." Landau eventually became Springsteen's manager.
  • Allan Clarke from The Hollies released a cover version a year before Springsteen released his.
  • This was the first song Springsteen wrote for a studio production, rather than a live performance. After recording four versions (one with a female chorus) at the low-budget studio where he recorded his first two albums, he moved to a higher end studio to finish it, refusing to release it until it was just right.
  • Springsteen wrote the lyrics in his Long Branch, New Jersey, home in early 1974. "One day I was playing my guitar on the edge of the bed, working on some song ideas, and the words 'born to run' came to me," he recalled. "At first I thought it was the name of a movie or something I'd seen on a car spinning around the circuit. I liked the phrase because it suggested a cinematic drama that I thought would work with the music that I'd been hearing in my head."
  • In the liner notes to his Greatest Hits album, Springsteen wrote: "My shot at the title. A 24 yr. old kid aimin' at 'The greatest rock 'n roll record ever.'"
  • Many of Springsteen's songs mention girls by name; in this one the heroine is Wendy. He explained that these ladies are composites of different people he knew.
  • Springsteen chose this as the album title after rejecting several other names, including War And Roses, The Hungry and The Hunted, American Summer, and Sometimes At Night.
  • "Highway 9" refers to Route 9 in New Jersey, which went through Springsteen's hometown of Freehold. Springsteen sang about another Jersey road, "Route 88," in "Spirit In The Night."
  • Springsteen performed a solo, slowed-down, acoustic version on his 1988 Tunnel of Love Express tour, changing the lyrics so the couple in the song were now married. He would play it as the first number in his first encore, emerging with an acoustic guitar and introducing the song by saying something along these lines:

    "This is a song that has changed a lot over the years. As I've sung it, it seems to have been able to open up and let the time in. When I wrote it, I was 24 years old, sitting in my bedroom in Long Branch, New Jersey. When I think back, it surprises me how much I knew about what I wanted, because the questions I ask myself in this song, it seems I've been trying to find the answers to them ever since. When I wrote this song, I was writing about a guy and a girl that wanted to run and keep on running, never come back. That was a nice, romantic idea, but I realized after I put all those people in all those cars, I was going to have to figure out someplace for them to go, and I realized in the end that individual freedom, when it's not connected to some sort of community, can be pretty meaningless. So, I guess that guy and that girl out there were looking for connection, and I guess that's what I'm doing here. So, this is a song about two people trying to find their way home. It's kept me good company on my search, and I hope it keeps you good company on yours."

    This patter can be traced to a December 13, 1987 benefit concert for homeless children at Madison Square Garden, where Springsteen introduced the song by saying: "It's about a boy and a girl that thought they wanted to run and keep running and never stop. And at the time I thought that was me and maybe it was. But I woke up one morning and realized that I wanted a home. And nobody wants or deserves to be homeless."
  • This is the only Springsteen track that drummer Ernest "Boom" Carter played on. He left to play in a jazz band with E Street piano player David Sancious after spending nine months with Bruce.
  • This song came at the crossroads of Springsteen's career. His first two albums sold poorly, and Columbia Records might have dropped him if he did not produce a hit.
  • This became an educational tool when it was used on Sesame Street as "Born To Add."
  • The amusement park Springsteen sings about in the line "Beyond The Palace, hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard" is listed in the New Jersey Register of Historic Places.
  • In the line, "hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard," a "hemi" is the 426 Hemi engine made famous by Chrysler muscle cars. "Drones" in this context are automatons, the young men driving their cars up and down the strip without a thought to the future. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brian - Ann Arbor, MI
  • Bruce must have been born to run, because he ran and jumped over the walls of Graceland to meet Elvis in 1976 when he was on tour in Memphis. This was a year after Springsteen made the covers of both Time and Newsweek, but his fame didn't help him - when he got to the door, security intercepted him and escorted him off the grounds. They informed him that Elvis was in Lake Tahoe, which was true.
  • A live staple, Springsteen performed this at halftime of the Super Bowl in 2009.
  • Springsteen knew he had to write more mature songs as he got older if he was going to extend his career. He explained in a 2005 interview with National Public Radio: "'Born To Run' was the song of my youth. Now I have to write something else. I became attracted to country music and older blues and folk because they bring the same intensity to adult issues and adult problems. And I thought, this is a lifetime job for me. I want to write songs I can sing at that great advanced age of 40 years old."
  • Springsteen continued to play this song in concert with the same ferocity as when he debuted it in 1974. He explained to the Radio Times June 27-July 3 2009 that he may have sung this "quite a few times, but if the evening has gone well I experience renewal rather than repetition at the moment I sing it." He added: "This music has not been heard at this moment, in this place, to these faces. That's why we go out there."
  • In a Season 5 episode of The Sopranos, the character Christopher Moltisanti quotes the song, saying he was late because "The highway's jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive." This could be an in-joke from the writers, as Steven Van Zandt of The E Street Band played Silvio on the series. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Matthew - Livingston, United Kingdom
  • This was a last-minute addition to Springsteen's 2001 Live In New York City album. He felt it was the missing ingredient on the CD, but the liner notes were already printed. The song had to be included as a hidden bonus track at the end of the first disc.
  • A page of Bruce Springsteen's early lyrics for this song etched in blue ink on a notepad page sold for $197,000 at an auction in New York on December 5, 2013. At this stage, Springsteen had the line "'Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run' fully written. Other lyrics visible, including,"this town'll rip the bones from your back" and "it's a suicide trap" were slightly altered on the finished song.
  • One of the most emotional performances of this song came at The Spectrum in Philadelphia on December 9, 1980, the night after John Lennon was shot and killed. Springsteen opened the show by saying, "If it wasn't for John Lennon, a lot of us would be some place much different tonight. It's a hard world that asks you to live with a lot of things that are unlivable. And it's hard to come out here and play tonight, but there's nothing else to do."

    The band then launched into "Born To Run" in a kind of catharsis: Steve Van Zandt had tears in his eyes and Danny Federici hit his keyboard so hard he broke a key. Thirty-three songs later, Springsteen closed the concert with Twist And Shout in tribute to Lennon.
  • In September 2013, two lanes were inexplicably closed on a ramp to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, New Jersey, in what was later learned was retribution for the mayor of Fort Lee refusing to endorse Governor Chris Christie. In response, Jimmy Fallon dressed up like Bruce Springsteen and sang a reworked version of this song - titled "Gov. Christie Traffic Jam" - on his late night TV show.

    Fallon sang a verse that included the lyrics, "They shut down the tollbooths of glory 'cause we didn't endorse Christie. " and "Whoa, maybe this Bridgegate was just payback, it's a bitchslap to the state democrats" before he was joined by the real Bruce Springsteen, who came in with the line, "Governor, let me in, I wanna be your friend, there'll be no partisan divisions."

    Springsteen continued with a pointed political barb: "Someday, governor, I don't know when, this will all end, but till then you're killing the working man."

    This was especially acute, since Christie has cited Springsteen as his favorite rocker and has talked about growing up listening to Bruce. Their politics diverge, so Springsteen has never supported Christie, but he did hug the governor at a Radio City Music Hall during a benefit for Hurricane Sandy victims in 2012. The "Traffic Jam" was a blatant rebuke to Christie in his darkest hour by his state's most popular entertainer.
  • Steven Van Zandt was partially responsible for the song's signature guitar line prior to joining the E Street Band for the Born to Run Tour. He recalled his contribution to Uncut magazine during a 2017 interview:

    "Bruce and I were just friends at this point. He said I wanna play you my new record. And he played 'Born to Run' for me, with me lying on the floor of the studio. He'd been working on it for months - I mean, literally months on one song, which is incredible now. But he played it from me, and I said, Oh, that's great. I particularly love that minor riff, very Roy Orbison, something The Beatles would do. And he said, 'What minor riff? What do you mean?'

    What was happening was he was doing a Duane Eddy style riff, with a bunch of echo on it, and he was bending up to the last note. But you never heard him bending up to the notes, it didn't register in your ear. He said, 'Oh my f---ing God,' and then played it how I heard it for the other guys, and I guess they all started to hear it the way I was, which was the way the whole world was gonna hear it! So they had to redo the guitar part and then the whole f--'ing mix. The mix alone took them a couple of weeks, because in those days there was no automation and there was a lot going on in the song."
  • There was a movement to make this the official state song of New Jersey.
  • In the UK, this didn't make the chart until 1987, when a live version recorded at Giants Stadium in New Jersey on August 19, 1985 made #16.
  • A rather noteworthy cover is by the British group Frankie Goes to Hollywood, which included it on their 1984 debut album, Welcome To The Pleasuredome. In their homeland, they were the biggest act of the year, with three #1 singles, but America barely noticed. For Pleasuredome, they covered not just "Born To Run" but two other very American songs as well: "War" and "Do You Know the Way to San José."

    On November 10, 1984, the same day the album hit #1 in the UK, they played "Born To Run" on Saturday Night Live along with the single they were pushing, "Two Tribes." The Springsteen cover was an oddity for the group, which favored bondage gear, had no saxophone player, and whose lead singer had no romantic interest in anyone named Wendy. Outside of major cities, they got little attention; "Two Tribes" stalled at #43.
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Comments: 58

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyIf you check out Allan Clarke's version of "Born To Run" on You Tube; you will notice that the song was actually composed by Bruce Springtein...
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn October 27th 1975, Time & Newsweek magazines hit the newstands; and on the cover of both magazines was Bruce!!!
    At the time his Billboard's Hot Top 100 debut record, "Born To Run", was at #23 and that would be its peak position, it would stay on the Top 100 for 11 weeks.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn April 28th 1976, Elvis' covered version of Timi Yuro's 1961 #4 hit, "Hurt", was at #42 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart...
    And on that very same day Bruce Springsteen climbed over a fence at Graceland and knocked on the mansion's front door hoping to meet the King...
    He was advised that Elvis was in Nevada preparing for an April 30th concert in Lake Tahoe, the Boss walked away disappointed and never did meet Elvis.
  • Gary from Port Charlotte, FlThe opening G-B-C-B-C-D-F#-G riff and his transition to the bridge do somewhat mirror the structure of "Norwegian Wood" moved down to the fifth and sixth strings, but his use of a ringing G-D-G-D played on the first and second strings is a device more common to Phil Spector. This double-fingering of the G chord is common to many of the songs that followed "Born to Run."
  • Zach from Atlanta, GaThere is so much that can be said about this song!!!
  • Jon from London, United KingdomThe lyrics Bruce sings after the first "born to run" @ 56 secs in are.....yes girl we could.
  • Brian from Boston, MaI read somewhere that the inspiration for the opening riff of this song came from Norwegian wood from the Beatles. Bruce had been listening to this song for awhile prior to writing Born to run. I realize these songs seem worlds apart but if you listen to the beginning of both they sound similar the way they are constructed.Anyway I think this song is way too overplayed and I'm just not as big a fan of it as I once was.Born to run the album though is Bruce at his best it is an Incredible album songs like thunder road and jungleland are perfect. To those that are not fimiliar with the album I urge you to listen to it it is one of the best albums of all time
  • Michael from Staten Island, NyIn the radio station I listen to (Q 104.3) they have an annual Top 1043 Songs of All Time. In 2009 it was #3 on the list, rigt behind "Hey Jude" and "Stairway to Heaven". I still have no idea how this guy counts as classic rock tho. More like jazz.
  • Aaron from Heights, TxGreat!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyI guess this is a good place to post the following; how many old time fans are like me in this respect: Having 'Greetings' to 'Nebraska' in LP, cassette, & CD format; from 'Born USA" to 'Tunnel' in cassette & CD, then everything after 'Chimes of Freedom' in just CD. Most of his works are now on my i-pod. I'm now is the process of starting a DVD collection... {Please no new formats}!!!
  • Sara from Eckerty, InMike from Dallas Tx. you made me laugh, and think of something new. I do not like this live version very much.
  • Jason from Southlake, TxIm 15 too this song is awesome Springteen went all out. Totally could be an anthem
  • Drew from B'ham, AlThe intro to this song is quite similar to that of "Forever Young" by Rod Stewart. Well, part of it. Only thing, this one is in 4/4 time & "Forever Young" is in 2/2 time. Since this is about gettin' *out* of NJ, it's fully compatible w/ "Sweet Home Alabama". It would be excellent humor to throw that in w/ "Born to Run".
  • Paris from Cardiff, United Kingdomokay, so i am only 15, but i LOVE The Boss! not as much as i love The Killers, but he is immense! and i love this song :D
  • Derek from Shrewsbury, Mastephen melbourn i sat there for like half an hour replaying that and i ccouldnt make heads or tails of it i think it was just a power grunt/yell that springsteen is famous for
  • Stephen from Melbourne, Australiaplease please pretty please Can anyone decipher the phrase which bruce shouts out just before the saxophone starts playing? it's about 1 minute and 50 seconds into the song.
    Thanks
  • Stephen from Melbourne, AustraliaI think what he says after the first corus after the first verse is not yes girl we were
    but more like : yes, born to run, I wish we could ask ole bruce about that, but he probably won't remember since this all took place over 30 years ago.
    He does tend to mumble a bit throughout the song though.
  • Paige from Sea Girt, NjI just want to say as someone from Jersey not far from red bank...in fact my sister went to High School with his son...he is from Central Jersey...because their is such a place
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrI wonder if Bruce may have known a girl in New Jersey named Wendy. And, by the way, Bruce still lives in New Jersey. He and his wife, Patty live in Rumson, which I believe is in Southern New Jersey?
  • Jason from Denver, CoMy sister and I saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band live like three days after we saw KISS on the farewell tour. Needless to say my voice was shot for damn near a month after that from screaming so loud. When Bruce and the band played born to run I went NUCKING FUTS. I remember they turned the house light up for that song which was cool because I could see EVERYONE ELSE screaming as well as me. One of the BEST concerts I ever attenended!!!!!!
  • John from Hendersonville, NcIf this became New Jersey's state song, I would move to New Jersey.
  • Anthony from West Chester, PaI agree that this song is about getting out, but I don't agree thats its about getting out of Freehold or South Jersey or Jersey specifically(although since Route 9 is mentioned it could be argued that it is NJ)....I think that it's about getting out of a small, blue collar town and (unlike the rest of the people there) trying to make something of your life. Really not a state anthem because of the idea of leaving, but a great song none the less.
  • Suzy from Louisville, KyI loved this song from the first time I heard it, when I was 12, although I could barely make out the words. to John, of Monvtille, NJ: I've always sung after the first "baby, we were born to run," as,"yes, girl we were." Maybe not accurate, but it fits for me.
    The song resonated for me because I grew up in a very rural community, where drag-racing on the two-lane blacktop that in a 1/4 mile straight stretch that started at the end of our gravel drive was a common activity for teens. My best friend and I always wanted to get out of our "town full of losers."
    Because I am ancient, I recall reading something before the internet that stated that Springsteen wrote this song looking at a movie poster for "Peter Pan" -- "Wendy, let me in, I wanna be your friend, I wanna guard your dreams and visions."

  • Doug from Holland, OhOne of the greatest rock songs ever written...Jersey wanted to use this song as an anthem, but quickly realized it was about "running from Jersey." We'll never be sure how much Bruce writes romance vs. politics, but the greatness of this song captures both aspects!
  • Nick from New York, NyHow can yo not like Springsteen. You can't say more people in NJ hate him then love him. Your nuts, the guy is goin on 60 and still sells out all over the country, slides all across the stage, and plays for 3 hours. Not many guys do that anymore. Jersey pride. Bruce is a great person also, met him at the Starland Ballroom one night at the bar, real down to earth cool dude
  • John from Monvtille, NjDoes anyone know what Bruce says after the first "Baby we were born to run?" It's at about 56 seconds. I never feel like I can sing it completely because I don't know what he says at that part! It kills me.
  • Andy from Halesowen, West Midlands, United KingdomTrue classics transcend geographical boundaries. I'm from England, and although a lot of the imagery from this song is not familiar to me, I just love it as a great song, and I think that everyone, everywhere can identify with wanting to escape at sometime in their life, some obviously more often than others! For me, Bruce put NJ on the map, before him I had heard very little about it. (The Sopranos have probably done the same thing for a new generation!!)
  • Diane from Orlando, FlI remember bing at Rutgers University in New Jersey when this song was playing on a local radio. I was walking across campus and it seemed to be blasting from every dorm room window. Loved it then, love it now. The conflict about the song being about leaving yet having for the state song, well all I can say is if your from Jersey you get it. Everybody dumps on NJ and of course you think about leaving if you live there but The Boss made us proud to have someone who understood it all and prouldy sung about it, in absolutely GREAT song. By the way I moved to Florida...lol
  • Paul from Athens, GreeceWhich live version of Born To Run do you prefer ?
  • Mike from Dallas, TxI usually think of great football running backs when I hear this song.
  • Mike from Hueytown , AlA masterpiece. One of the greatest rock songs of alltime. This song can compete with anybody !
  • Mark from Austin, Tx'Born To Run' is mentioned a lot in Koushun Takami's Battle Royale. (The book, not the movie.) He really pegged the meaning behind the song and rock and roll in general. Leave it to someone who didn't grow up around rock music to really understand it.
  • Street Strategist from Hong Kong, Hong Kong"Born to Run" is number 1 in the list called "Sounds at the Speed of Music: 50 Rock Anthems at 100 kph"
  • Dave from New Orleans, LaStephen from Canada, if you listen very closely to the song, you can hear references to Canada, hosers, and hockey. Born to Run's sub theme was about staying away from flying pucks.
  • Ben from Sydney, Australiaeverytime i listen to this song actually any bruce song, just reminds me of how much i love my girlfriend... But what a great song.. am i wrong?? No.
  • Stephen from Kamloops, CanadaWhy can't Americans be more like Canadians. Use your own brain, and not listen and believe the junk you hear. The song is not denegrading to New Jersey in the least. It's just about two young lovers running away. Where they are from is only important as lyrical imagery, and this song is a beautiful example of that, and yes a classic. A state song, sure! New Jersians are proud of their native son.
  • Ray from Stockton, NjI agree that this should be New Jersey's state song. Everyone hates New Jersey, I mean i went on vacation to the western US and they just hated me. They knew i wasnt from around their so they asked where i was from. I told them and they just kind of laughed, didn't you have a gay governor? they said. It was embarassing and I have to say Bruce Springsteen made a lot of people proud to be from New Jersey.
  • Malicious Matt from SquatneyI love the irony of New Jersey wanting this as their state anthem, when the song is about getting the hell out! lol Its similar to the irony of Reagan wanting to use "Born in the USA" as some kind of campaign theme tune, when its so obviously (if you read the lyric sheet) closer to a protest song than a patriotic song! People really dont listen to lyrics, do they!
  • Caitlin from Upper Township, NjMy parents are HUGE Bruce Springsteen fans ( go figure. we're from south jersey). Anytime this song comes on the radio, my mom calls me on my cell and tells me to put on whatever radio station. I think it's a great song with a lively beat, and Bruce ROCKS anyway!
  • Nathan from From The Country Of, Canadathe greatest is seeing other artists trying to cover this song live and attempt at putting all the numerous insturments together and fail miserably, but Bruce does it every single time, great song.
  • Theodore from Newark, NjEveryone thinks people in New Jersey LOVE Springsteen, but that's not true, especially in northern New Jersey. There are two Jerseys, ever since colonial times, one dominated by NYC, the other by Philadelphia. North and South in general and to this day, do not like one another that much. Springsteen is from "south" Jersey, sings about the values down there, the cars, the highways, the dull, dead lives of the natives looking to get out, especially in his first few albums. I think more people here dislike him, then like him, but those who DO like him frankly ADORE the guy. Go figure.
  • Alberto from Carpi, Italy"A 24 yr. old kid aimin' at 'The greatest rock 'n roll record ever.'", wrote Bruce. And I say, mission accomplished. Everything I wrote about Thunder Road could probably fit to this song too. There's everything in it: mad love, escape, freedom, sweat, passion. The last stanza is one of the most beautiful declaration of love I know.
  • Katie from Bridgewater, Njthe guy from Grand Forks is right. As much as I love bruce springsteen and his anthems about the promised land and struggling with youth in new jersey.. it is about leaving. its about being ready to leave a pointless existance to find meaning in life. it was supposed to be the youth anthem for NJ, but thats an oxi-moron then.
  • Dave from Pittsburgh, PaI love this entire album! I play it everytime I get the chance, and it always gives me a rush!!
  • Marshall from Sacramento, CaAccording to the documentary on the 30th anniversary package of the album, the song was once done with a glossy female chorus.
  • Corey from Woodstock, Vtmy new favorite song. Love the chords after "I was born to ruuuuuuuun!
  • Matt from Wilkes-barre, PaI love the acoustic version of this song. Bruce said Born to Run was about a guy and girl who "kept on running!!!"
  • Sheldon from Toronto, CanadaBy his Bruce's own admission, the meaning of Born to Run has changed over time from being an escapism song about two people trying to find their way in life to a song about two people simply trying to find their way home. It has kept good company on my journey!!
  • Ross from Independence, MoThis was #21 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs
  • Michael from Cincinnati, OhChelsea and Kyle are both right. It is about getting out of NJ, which is why it should be the state song. I am a Jersey native (Bergen County), whose been gone nearly 25 years now. Springsteen's music always made me pine for New Jersey until I went back as an adult. Once I learned to drive and realized how much I paid in taxes, returning to New Jersey lost all appeal.
  • Chelsea from Freehold, Njhey, kids. read the lyrics. born to run is about getting the hell out of new jersey. i mean, who the hell wants to live in freehold their whole lives. i sure as hell dont.
  • Matt from Windsor, CanadaWithout doubt the best song ever made in all of the history of song making.
    Bruce is the man! (or Boss)
  • Anastasia from Anaheim, Caokay, this may sound corny, but evreytime i hear that song, it seriously gives me goosebumps; evreytime!!! i remember the sesame street episode!!! does anyone else?? maybe i'm the only one..oh well...
  • Kyle from Freehold, Njthis song SHOULD be our state song! One of the best songs ever written.
  • Lee from London , EnglandThis song sends shivers up my spine!I first heard it live at Wembley Arena London in 1981 and Bruce opened his first night with this his most famous song.I went 3 times in 6 nights and each night was better than the night before.I've seen the boss another 7 times since and he is just awesome.If you never see another concert go to see Bruce!
  • Matt from Middletown , NjAs part of yet another Asbury Park revitalization project, the Palace was recently torn down (Spring '04) despite a fierce battle.
  • Jon from Grand Forks, NdI hate to have to add this, but The Boss himself chided NJ for wanting this to be the state anthem. You see, he said the song was written abouot getting OUT of NJ. Sorry
  • Ralph from Hawthorne, NjThis should be New Jerseys official state song.
    It really is the best song ever written!!!!
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