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Music / Bruce Springsteen

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"Cuz tramps like us, baby, we were born to run."

Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen (born September 23, 1949), nicknamed "The Boss", is one of the most notable singer-songwriters to come out of the 1970s. He's also the living patron saint of New Jersey; speak ill of him in the Garden State at your peril.

Born in Long Branch, Springsteen arose out of the "Jersey Shore Sound" scene of the 1970s, which unabashedly combined rock and R&B elements. Perhaps his most well-known albums are Born to Run (1975) and Born in the USA (1984). Alongside his backing group the E Street Band, the membership of which has remained mostly constant throughout the years, Springsteen is best known for a "heartland rock" style that features themes of Americana, working-class desperation in an age of cynicism, and hope for a better life. Despite his associations with liberal politics and John Kerry in particular, his songs have sometimes been appropriated by conservative politicians, oftentimes without his permission. The most glaring example is the song "Born in the USA", which despite its title is not an unequivocal celebration of that country, but rather a condemnation of its treatment of Vietnam veterans. When Ronald Reagan tried to use the song for his reelection campaign in 1984, Springsteen famously told the President that he couldn't use it.


Despite his most well-known work being produced in the '70s and '80s, he is still recording today. His latest album, Letter to You, was released in 2020. He also campaigned for Barack Obama during the 2008 American presidential campaign and performed at the inauguration.

Springsteen is also notable for helping to launch Courteney Cox's career when she appeared in his video for "Dancing in the Dark."

Springsteen was honored at the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors, with the presentation done by Jersey native (and lifelong fan) Jon Stewart. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal Of Freedom in 2016, was inducted into both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 1999, and has won a Best Original Song Oscar award (for "Streets of Philadelphia") and a Tony award.

He once wrote a song about Harry Potter, after reading the books to his son, and tried to get it into the movie.


Studio discography

  • Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. (1973)^
  • The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle (1973)^
  • Born to Run (1975)^
  • Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978)^
  • The River (1980)^
  • Nebraska (1982)
  • Born in the U.S.A. (1984)^
  • Tunnel of Love (1987)^
  • Human Touch (1992)
  • Lucky Town (1992)
  • The Ghost of Tom Joad (1995)
  • The Rising (2002)^
  • Devils & Dust (2005)
  • We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (2006)
  • Magic (2007)^
  • Working on a Dream (2009)^
  • Wrecking Ball (2012)^
  • High Hopes (2014)^
  • Western Stars (2019)
  • Letter to You (2020)^
    ^=with the E Street Band

Bruce Springsteen is the Trope Namer for:

  • Glory Days. The song itself is a look back on high school memories.

"Tropes like us, baby we were born to run!":

  • Aesop Amnesia: In 1984, President Reagan famously wanted to use "Born in the USA" his campaign song, prompting Springsteen to note that the song's lyrics weren't quite as upbeat many people believed the chorus to be and that it was actually a mournful song about veterans (including some of Bruce's friends) who went through the Vietnam War. In a similar vein, Independence Day celebrations have often used the song. And Bruce will publicly have to explain once again how the song is about how poorly Vietnam veterans (and the working class in general) were treated.
  • Age-Progression Song: Arguably "Outlaw Pete", albeit slightly nastier than most of these usually are.
  • All Drummers Are Animals: The very first words sung on a Springsteen album are "madman drummers" ("Blinded by the Light"), a nod to the original E Street drummer, Vini Lopez, who was nicknamed "Mad Dog". Averted with the chilled-out Max Weinberg.
  • All Just a Dream: A verse in "Downbound Train"
  • And Now For Something Completely Different: Nebraska was a departure: Three Chords and the Truth by Springsteen on his own instead of the earlier full band backing and dark, political songs. Not quite a New Sound Album, though, as it was followed by Born in the USA...
    • We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. Bruce put together an entirely new band and recorded a selection of traditional folk songs like "Old Man Tucker", "Eyes on the Prize", "John Henry" and "Mary Don't You Weep". The end product is one of his most rocking albums in recent years.
    • Wrecking Ball proved to be quite a surprise for early listeners. Traces of gospel, Celtic folk, hip-hop beats and big horns collide in a messy combination, featuring some of his angriest lyrics in years. It just works.
    • Western Stars was Bruce's official foray into Country Western.
  • And Starring: When he introduces the members of the E Street Band in concert, he always saved saxophone player Clarence Clemons ("The Big Man") for last, usually shouting, "And last but not least..." In his 2000 Live from New York City album, the band intros take place between verses two and three of "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out", as Springsteen shouts, "Do I have to say his name?" while the rest of the band leads the audience in chanting "CLAR-ence! CLAR-ence!", segueing seamlessly into the first line in verse three, "The change was made uptown and the Big Man joined the band!" In performances since Clemons's death, the band stops playing after this line, giving way to a couple minutes of silent footage of Clemons performing on the overhead monitors.
  • Anti-Love Song: Most of the songs of Tunnel of Love, which he recorded while his first marriage was failing.
  • Arc Words: 'Magic' reappears a lot throughout his discography, culminating in the album Magic and being mentioned in multiple songs therein (including the Title Track).
  • Artistic Stimulation: The Seeger Sessions is a mild form of this. The bonus DVD shows Bruce encouraging his fellow musicians to drink whiskey and beer so that their background vocals will sound "wild."
  • Audience Participation Song: "Hungry Heart", "Thunder Road", "The River" and "Waitin' On A Sunny Day" are the most common.
  • Ballad of X: "Ballad of Elmer and Pea," "Ballad of Jesse James," "Ballad of the Self-Loading Pistol"
  • Based on a True Story: According to Springsteen, The River is largely based on the lives of his sister and her husband.
  • Bawdy Song: "Red Headed Woman".
  • The Big Guy: Clarence Clemons of The E Street Band, of course. He was called “The Big Man” for a reason, after all.
  • Bo Diddley Beat: "She's The One", "Ain't Got You".
  • Bowdlerize: Tom Waits' "Jersey Girl" originally included the line "Don't want no whores on Eighth Avenue." Bruce changed it to "Or the girls out on the avenue."
  • Bottle Episode: Nebraska was recorded in his bedroom on a small 4-track recorder as demos. When he tried to record the songs with the E Street Band, the songs didn't evoke the same bleak, stark feel as the demos, so he polished the demos and released them as the record. Max Weinberg has confirmed that an "Electric Nebraska" does exist.
  • Breakout Character: E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg is probably the most successful, being just as well known for his work as bandleader of the house band for NBC's Late Night/The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.
    • In addition, lead guitarist Steven Van Zandt is also pretty successful as well, being just as well known for his role as Silvio Dante on the HBO drama The Sopranos, and for his long-running weekly radio show "Little Steven's Underground Garage" as well as a long running solo music career.
  • Breather Episode:"The Promised Land" is a lot more optimistic than the rest of the songs on Darkness.
  • Bungled Suicide: "For You" is about the narrator's girlfriend who survived a suicide attempt.
  • Call-Back: The songs of Letter to You are musically reminiscent of Bruce's various pre-Reunion records, particularly Born to Run with strong use of piano, glockenspiel and (of course) sax solos.
    • In "Long Time Comin'" from 2005's Devils and Dust, the narrator is married to a woman named Rosie. After the album's release, there was some speculation that "Rosie" is actually the title character from "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)"; she's just grown up now.
    • "The Promise" namedrops "Thunder Road".
    • "Matamoros Banks" is the tragic follow-up to "Across the Border".
  • Calling the Old Man Out: His strained relationship with his father made its way into a lot of his songs, leading him to joke during his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acceptance speech:
    "I've gotta thank him because—what would I conceivably have written about without him? I mean, you can imagine that if everything had gone great between us, we would have had disaster."
  • Careful with That Axe: The intro to "Something in the Night".
  • Cheap Pop: Parodied with the joke song "In Michigan", performed at two shows there in September 1996.
  • Christmas Songs: The Boss' cover of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", based on Phil Spector's arrangement for the Crystals, is a classic rock radio standard during Christmastime.
    • Ditto for his cover of "Merry Christmas, Baby" (based on Otis Redding's arrangement).
  • Cliché Storm: Invoked and parodied with "My Best Was Never Good Enough," where the lyrics, except for the title and "Come'on pretty baby, call my bluff" are nothing but clichés, including a Take That! to Forrest Gump.
    "Now life's like a box of chocolates
    You never know what you're gonna get
    Stupid is as stupid does and all the rest of that shit."
  • Con Man: Used as a metaphor for political demagogues in "Magic" and "Rainmaker".
  • Cool Car: Cars are often means of escape and objects of desire for his protagonists.
    • "Ramrod": "She's a hot stepping hemi with a four on the floor / She's a roadrunner engine in a '32 Ford..."
    • "Cadillac Ranch": "Cadillac, Cadillac / Long and dark, shiny and black / Open up your engines, let 'em roar / Tearing up the highway like a big old dinosaur..."
    • "Pink Cadillac": "Crushed velvet seats, ridin' in the back, cruisin' down the streets, wavin' to the girls, feelin' outta sight..."
    • Subverted in "Racing In The Streets", about a guy who's sunk all of his dreams in a Cool Car that's never going anywhere.
    • Inverted in "The Line", in which border police use their cars as weapons against illegal immigrants ("We'd rush 'em with our Broncos...") and "Balboa Park", in which the protagonist is hit and probably killed by a car.
    • Also inverted in "Used Cars," in which the child narrator is ashamed of his family's poverty and how they can't afford a new car. They always have to buy secondhand cars and even that is a strain on their finances.
      Now mister the day the lottery I win
      I ain't ever gonna ride in no used car again
  • Cool Old Guy: He's over seventy years old, and he sounds as good as ever, if not better.
    • Clarence Clemons, who was still playing with the band right before he died at the age of 69, also counts.
  • Crapsack World: The overlying theme of his 1982 album Nebraska.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Springsteen incorporates imagery and metaphors related to amusement parks, fairgrounds and carnivals (he called one album Tunnel of Love). Appropriate as it was the Jersey Shore where Bruce developed a following in The '60s.
    • Cars also turn up frequently, as the Cool Car entry on the main page points out.
    • As does travel. Glory Days, for instance, begins with a mention of a truck-stop bar, and Jungleland begins with a "magic rat" crossing the Jersey state line. Within "travel", crossing county or state lines is common, presumably because this represents moving from one thing to the next.
    • He's also got a lot of songs about trains.
  • Distracted by the Sexy:
    • "Crush on You": the narrator is constantly getting distracted by beautiful girls to the point of wanting to drop everything and just run after them.
    • Also these lines from "Loose Change":
      Yeah, I knew she was trouble but trouble sure was lookin' fine
      When I pulled her close what I knew kinda slipped my mind
  • Downer Ending: Several of his songs, notably Jungleland.
  • Draft Dodging: Admits he did "everything [he] could" to avoid being sent to Vietnam, including pretending to be gay and on drugs. He was ultimately disqualified for a legitimate injury he had received in a motorcycle accident.
  • Dying Town: "My Hometown" and "Youngstown". Based in large part on the economic turmoil that hit Bruce's hometown of Freehold, NJ and other towns that suffered with the loss of factory jobs during the postwar decades.
    • And of course, "Death to my Hometown" from 2012's Wrecking Ball.
    • "Frankie" from Tracks contains the line, "Everybody's dying, this town's closing down."
    • "My City of Ruins" was written for Asbury Park, the home of Bruce's first prominent music scene, which had been on a long economic decline. Fortunately, it's gained a revival since then.
  • Eagleland: Most of his songs are meditations on American small towns, culture, politics etc. Usually coming in type 3 but with a few songs like "Born in the USA" closer in tone to 2 when discussing topics like the ill treatment received by the Vietnam Veterans or the existence of political corruption. That being said, his recent album "Wrecking Ball" goes back to Type 3: Despite the existence of corrupt powers-that-be, the album ultimately suggests that in the end the good will triumph, and Bruce celebrates the American small towns and urban centers that he hopes will recover from the current economic turmoil.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Appears in some of his songs, notably "Badlands" and "Land of Hopes and Dreams".
  • Epic Rocking: Not so much with album versions, but there are some exceptions. "Kitty's Back", "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)", "Incident on 57th Street", "Racing in the Street", "Drive All Night", and "Outlaw Pete" are around seven or eight minutes long, while "Jungleland" runs for nine and a half, but his longest to date is "New York City Serenade", at nearly ten minutes long. At his longest (especially "Jungleland" and "New York City Serenade"), he arguably crosses into Progressive Rock territory; this is also something of a case of Early Installment Weirdness as The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle had a much larger quantity of it than any of his later studio albums (it contains four of the songs listed here, out of seven songs on the album). Live performances are a different matter, though - live renditions of "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out", "E Street Shuffle" or especially "Kitty's Back" (their dedicated "jamming song", where everyone gets a chance to solo) can stretch to twenty minutes.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: "Part Man, Part Monkey"
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The album 18 Tracks, a collection of 18 tracks.
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Incident on 57th Street" into "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)". Each of these two songs would be a case of Epic Rocking by itself; combined, they run for 14:49.
  • Fan Disservice: The graphic sex scene in "Reno" is creepy and sad, and fully meant to be so.
  • For the Evulz: The narrator of "The New Timer" blames his friend's murder on "somebody killing just to kill."
  • Foreshadowing: A number of songs on The River. The title track, for example, presaged the themes he would devote Nebraska to.
  • Fortune Teller: "4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)": "The cops finally busted Madame Marie, for telling fortunes better than they do." This referred to a real-life Asbury Park fortune teller named Marie Castello, who once told Springsteen he would be a great success as a musician.
    • "Brilliant Disguise": "We stood at the altar / the gypsy swore our future was right / But come the wee wee hours / Well maybe baby the gypsy lied."
  • Gift of Song: "The Wish" is one for his mother.
  • Heavy Meta/"I Am" Song: "I'm a Rocker"
  • Iconic Item: One of the most famous in rock, his guitar: a heavily modified 1950s butterscotch Fender Esquire/Telecaster hybrid (it's a Telecaster body with an Esquire neck.) He bought it in 1973 and basically never used any other guitar in concert until it had to be retired in 2005, but the guitars he does use onstage have been modified into clones of it, and he still records with it.
  • Iconic Song Request: Taking sign requests is a tradition at his concerts, and the songs don't even need to be his own. Subverted in that he usually chooses lesser-known songs.
  • Insult Backfire:
    • His 1984 hit "Born In the USA" is about the negative effect the Vietnam War had on working class Americans and criticizes how the US government feels it needs to "police the world". However, it has been frequently misinterpreted as a patriotic anthem and was embraced by a number of nationalist figures during The '80s who were oblivious to the song's true meaning. Most notably, Ronald Reagan wanted to use the song for his 1984 reelection campaign (which Springsteen openly mocked him for) and Lee Iacocca wanted to use the song in a patriotically themed advertising campaign for Chrysler automobiles. Naturally, Springsteen refused to allow either to use the song.
    • His song Glory Days is often used at high school reunions and is embraced as a lighthearted tale of those reminiscing of their youth. However, the song is really about a group of high school classmates who are down-on-their-luck losers that have gone nowhere in life since their graduation. However, all of them were popular and really had things going for them back during their school days, so they regularly get together, get drunk and reminisce about their time in high school to feel better about themselves and forget about how pitiful their lives currently are.
  • Intercourse with You: "I'm On Fire". Fittingly enough, it was later covered by AWOLNATION for the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack.
  • Joisey: Where Bruce was born, raised, and has usually drawn a lot of his inspiration from. The loss of many industrial jobs in Springsteen's hometown of Freehold and in other parts of New Jersey informed a lot of his lyrics and beliefs right from the start of his career, and his singing about this issue obviously found a sympathetic audience in the parts of the state that were suffering from the loss of jobs. Scenery from the Jersey Shore (no, not that Jersey Shore) are often used as imagery in his lyrics and song titles. And Bruce—loyal to his roots—always makes sure to have concerts in Jersey throughout his tours. It's no wonder that—although he's honored and adored by fans throughout America—it's in New Jersey where Bruce is the most beloved.
    • After Bruce and Patti began having children, Bruce decided to move the family out of Beverly Hills to get away from that kind of environment. So where did he and Patti go to raise their kids? Back home to Jersey of course. To a town merely 15 minutes from Freehold, in fact.
    • Listen to any live recording of a Bruce song containing the word "Jersey"; you'll probably hear a large cheer from the audience as soon as they hear the word.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Some characters, e.g. in "Highway Patrolman". Springsteen himself is more or less this in real life.
  • Large Ham: "The E Street Band has traveled thousands of miles, to fulfill their solemn vow...TO ROCK THE HOOOOOOOOUUSE!!!"
    • From his intro to their Super Bowl gig: "Ladies and gentlemen! Tonight we are bringing the righteous and the mighty power of the E Street Band into YOUR beautiful home! So I want you to to step back from the guacamole dip! I want you to put the chicken fingers down! And turn your televisions ALL the way up!..."
      • Jon Stewart, a life-long Springsteen fan, provided an Affectionate Parody the next day; "You are about to witness the righteous power of the Daily Show! I want you to step away from your remote... wha, no? It was cool when Springsteen did it!"
    • Or this 2013 classic: "I want you to go home with your back aching and your hands aching and your voice hoarse and your feet aching and your knees aching AND YOUR SEXUAL ORGANS STIMULATED!!!"
    • "The heart-stopping, fun-loving, earth-quaking, love-making, record-breaking, air-conditioner-shaking, Viagra-taking, history-making E! STREET! BAND!"
    • "What time is it?" "It's BOSS TIME!!!!!"
  • Legacy Character: Max Weinberg was replaced by his son on the most recent tour for some shows that conflicted with his commitments to The Tonight Show. Danny Federici's son also played on the most recent album following his death. After Clarence Clemons' death, his nephew Jake joined the band on sax.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: When the band was first starting out, they rehearsed in David Sancious' mother's house on E Street in Asbury Park.
  • Live Album: In Concert: MTV Unplugged, Live in New York City, Hammersmith Odeon, London '75, Live in Dublin
    • And the 13x platinum box set Live 1975-85.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: The current E Street Band has eight permanent members, along with two semi-permanent members, with a rotation for some of the permanent members. However, Wikipedia lists, over the entire lifetime of the band, twelve full-time members and a further seventeen touring members. And Bruce. Fortunately, Bruce always introduces everyone on stage each concert. The Sessions Band, active briefly in '97 and then again in '05-'06, had roughly twenty-five members (never all at once, but sometimes with twenty people on stage), only a couple of which were also E Streeters! Recent tours muddied things even further, with Tom Morello going from regular guest star to on-and-off touring member and back for a few years, and the Sessions Band's horn players joining the band as The E Street Horns.
    • Also, all the different characters in the songs (various women named Mary, Spanish Johnny, Hazey Davey, Jimmy the Saint, Go-Cart Mozart, Early Pearly, Bad Scooter, Wild Billy, Sandy, Kitty, Rosalita, Wendy, etc. etc., and those are just the ones with names.)
  • Location Song: "Nebraska", "Born In The U.S.A.", which all paint a not so rosy-posy picture of the USA.
  • Long-Distance Relationship: "Save My Love".
  • Longest Song Goes Last:
    • The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle ends with "New York City Serenade" (9:55).
    • Born to Run ends with "Jungleland" (9:33).
  • Long Title:
    • The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle
    • Darkness on the Edge of Town
    • It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Probably the reason so many people misinterpret his songs, including:
    • "Born in the USA" (although it depends on what version you're listening to; the versions on Tracks and Live In New York City are more obviously mournful and don't really fit this trope)
    • "Dancing in the Dark"
    • "Cadillac Ranch"
    • "Hungry Heart"
    • "Johnny 99"
    • "Shackled and Drawn"
    • "Sherry Darling"note 
  • Lyrical Shoehorn: Bruce is prone to inserting the word "mister" into lines where he needs a couple of extra syllables to fill out the meter.
  • The Mafia: "Atlantic City" opens by referencing the assassination of Philadelphia crime family boss Philip "the Chicken Man" Testa, and it seems that the viewpoint character is about to join the Mafia as a hitman (either taking a job in AC or, more likely, spending his last free weekend on the Shore). "Murder Incorporated" takes it's title from the full name of "Murder, Inc.", the enforcement arm of The Mafia in New York city and elsewhere during The '30s and The '40s.
  • Mohs Scale of Lyrical Hardness: Since he's done everything from odes to old-fashioned Rock 'N' Roll, cars and love songs to serious political commentary, tales of working class struggle and the odd Murder Ballad, it's safe to say that he's gone all over it, from 2 to an 8 or even (arguably) a 9 in some cases.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: All over the bottom half of the scale- his songs jump around between 1 and 5.
  • Mood Whiplash: The River (the album; the title track is an unrelenting downer). Completely intentional, according to Word of God.
  • Morality Ballad: "Born in the USA".
    • Many of Springsteen's songs could be described, to paraphrase Max Frisch, as morality ballads without a moral. His characters find themselves bewildered and torn by their actions, but it is clear they would do the same things again, for instance in "Hungry Heart".
  • Motormouth: Since he's known for his plainspoken singing style, it's definitely Early Installment Weirdness to hear his rapid-fire delivery of the wordy verses toward the end of "Blinded by the Light".
  • Murder Ballad:
    • "Nebraska" - inspired by the real-life murder spree of Charles Starkweather.
    • "Johnny 99"
    • "Highway 29"
    • Arguably "Atlantic City"
  • Never Bareheaded: Steve Van Zandt was in a car accident a long time ago; his head broke the windshield and the hair on the top of his head never grew back. Consequently, he is always seen with a bandana tied around his head, except when he starred in The Sopranos and wore a pompadour wig instead.
  • Nice Guy: By all accounts, Bruce is a very friendly, humble and good-natured person who enjoys meeting his fans and who is very good to work with.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: He once broke a football stadium. With rock'n'roll.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?" "Incident On 57th Street," "Reno," "The Wrestler"
  • Not Christian Rock: "The Power of Prayer".
  • Ode to Youth: "Glory Days", "No Surrender", "Backstreets" and "Born to Run".
  • Older Than They Look: He has aged remarkably well and looks very good despite being born in 1949.
  • One-Woman Song: "4th of July Asbury Park (Sandy)," "Candy's Room," "Cindy," "Janey Don't You Lose Heart," "Janey Needs a Shooter," etc.
  • Outlaw: "Outlaw Pete"
  • Ordinary People's Music Video:
  • Outlaw Couple: "Nebraska", "Highway 29" and "Easy Money."
  • Preacher Man: The natural combination of his Large Ham tendencies and copious use of Christian imagery, Springsteen often leans on this persona in live performances. His gospel is, of course, none other than Rock & Roll.
    • Jim Casy makes an appearance in "The Ghost of Tom Joad".
    • "If I Was the Priest" features a Wild West version in a face-off with Sheriff Jesus.
  • Precision F-Strike: Springsteen doesn't usually use R-rated language in his songs, he saves it for special occasions:
    • "Long Time Comin'": "Two kids in a sleeping bag beside / Reach 'neath your shirt, put my hands across your belly and feel / Another one kickin' inside / And I ain't gonna fuck it up this time!"
    • "Queen of the Supermarket": "As I lift my groceries in to my car / I turn back for a moment and catch a smile / That blows this whole fucking place apart!"
    • "My Best was Never Good Enough": "And the early bird catches the fuckin' worm..."
    • Live versions of "Lost in the Flood": "Hey man, did you see that, those poor cats are sure fucked up"
    • "Don't vote for that fuckin' Bush!"- during a concert at the Nassau Coliseum on April 1, 1988.
  • Protest Song: "Born in the USA" again, which is about the treatment of Vietnam veterans. Many other songs also qualify, and The Ghost of Tom Joad is almost an entire album of protest songs.
    • Several of the songs on Wrecking Ball, particularly "Shackled and Drawn" and "Death To My Hometown."
  • Raised Catholic: And it shows. Biblical motifs are scattered everywhere in his discography, from titles like "The Promised Land" and "Jesus Was an Only Son" to the repeated symbolic use of the name Mary/Maria. Though now technically non-religious, Springsteen has noted that he still feels like he's "on the team" and considers himself a spiritual writer more than anything else.
  • Rearrange the Song: Notably, "Youngstown" was reworked from a mournful acoustic ballad to furious rocker capped by possibly the wildest guitar solo in Springsteen's entire catalogue.
    • The "Live In Dublin" album contains several classic Springsteen songs that have been rewritten to sound like folk songs (this was right after his folk album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions was released and he was on tour with the Sessions Band). "Open All Night", in particular, is transformed from a short track with a low, urgent vocal over a single thrumming guitar to an upbeat ten-minute barnstormer that gives everyone in the Sessions Band (all eighteen of them) a chance to sing or solo.
  • Recycled Lyrics: Nebraska has some examples: "Atlantic City" and "Johnny 99" both have the narrator mention having "debts no honest man can pay". "State Trooper" and "Open All Night" share the couplet "in the wee wee hours your mind gets hazy / radio relay towers lead me to my baby". In "State Trooper", the "radio's jammed up with talk show stations", whereas in "Open All Night" it's "jammed up with gospel stations".
    • "Spanish Eyes" and "I'm On Fire" both start with the lines "Hey little girl is your Daddy home, did he go away and leave you all alone?"
    • "Further On Up The Road" and "Maria's Bed" both contain the lines, "Got on my dead man's suit and smiling skull ring, lucky graveyard boots and a song to sing." There's also a line in both songs about being "out in the desert, doing my time."
  • The Red Baron: Springsteen's own nickname is "the Boss", dating back to the days of his early bands when he managed, booked and organised the band himself. He also has a variety of nicknames for the E Street Bandmembers - The Mighty Mighty Max Weinberg, Professor Roy Bittan, Patti "The First Lady of Love" Scialfa... Clarence Clemons usually got half a dozen, culminating in "the Big Man, Clarence Clemons!"
  • Repurposed Pop Song: Barack Obama used "The Rising" in his campaign, and Springsteen himself played it at a few rallies.
    • Ronald Reagan rather famously tried to do this to "Born in the USA" apparently mistaking it for a (somewhat jingoistic) hyper-patriotic anthem. It's not.
  • Rhyming with Itself: "County Fair": "County fair, county fair / Everybody in town'll be there / So come on, hey we're goin' down there"
    • "I'll Work For Your Love": "The late afternoon sun fills the room / With the mist of the garden before the fall / I watch your hands smooth the front of your blouse / and seven drops of blood fall"
  • Run for the Border: Frankie in "Highway Patrolman"
  • Sarcastic Title: "Born In The U.S.A." is one of the most well-known examples of this trope.
  • Scatting: "Streets of Philadelphia", "The Rising" and "Maria's Bed" all have variants of "lie-la-lie-lie" in their refrains.
  • Scotland Yard: From "Blinded by the Light":
    "Yes and Scotland Yard was trying hard, they sent a dude with a calling card, he said, do what you like, but don't do it here"
  • Second Verse Curse: "Glory Days" has a seldom-heard third verse;
    My old man worked 20 years on the line
    And they let him go
    Now everywhere he goes out looking for work
    They just tell him that he's too old
    I was nine years old and he was working at the
    Metuchen Ford plant assembly line
    Now he just sits on a stool down at the Legion Hall
    But I can tell what's on his mind

    Glory days yeah goin back
    Glory days aw he ain't never had
    Glory days, glory days
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: Springsteen sang all the background vocals on Nebraska. This is particularly noticeable in "Atlantic City."
  • Self-Deprecation: Usually his musical comedy routines with Jimmy Fallon on Jimmy's talk show. Usually exaggerated parodies of Bruce's songs (or hit songs of the day) with Bruce and Jimmy using exaggerated "Springsteen" costumes and singing voices.
  • "Sesame Street" Cred: The show did a parody of "Born to Run" called "Born to Add."
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: "Shut Out The Light" (Vietnam) and "Devil's Arcade" (Iraq)
  • Shoot Him! He Has a... Wallet!: released a song based on the trope naming incident, called "American Skin (41 shots)", which included lyrics like "is it a gun? is it a knife? is it a wallet? This is your life!"
  • Shoot the Television: His song "57 Channels (And Nothin' On)" is about a man who, after his investments in television, cable, satellite dishes, and home entertainment fail to bring him happiness, takes out his frustration by shooting the television set. The lyrics reference Elvis Presley in this regard.
    So I bought a .44 magnum, it was solid steel cast,
    And in the blessed name of Elvis, well, I just let it blast.
    • This visual is also present in the song's Music Video.
  • Shout-Out: The Ghost of Tom Joad references The Grapes of Wrath.
    • "Ain't Good Enough For You" contains the lyrics "And babe I tried to make the latest scene, hitting cool just like Jimmy Iovine." Iovine is a record producer who worked on Born To Run.
    • In the liner notes of his greatest hits album, Bruce mentions that he got the title of "Thunder Road" from a Robert Mitchum movie. Interestingly, he claims he hadn't actually seen the movie at the time he wrote the song; he simply found the poster inspiring.
    • "Thunder Road" also references Roy Orbison's song "Only the Lonely".
    • The chorus of "Mary's Place" is from Sam Cooke's song "Meet Me at Mary's Place".
  • Shown Their Work: The Ghost of Tom Joad has a bibliography. The "Jenny" of "Youngstown" is also not a woman, but rather the nickname of the Blast Furnace at the steelworks in Youngstown, Ohio.
  • Silly Love Songs: The Tunnel of Love album, among many others.
  • Steel Mill: "Youngstown"
    • Also, his first serious band before the E Street Band was called Steel Mill.
  • Something Blues: "California Blues"
  • The Something Song: "Seaside Bar Song", "Song for Orphans"
  • Three-Act Structure: "Spare Parts" is a particularly concise example.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Especially on Nebraska, The Ghost of Tom Joad, and Devils & Dust.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Springsteen put on muscle and shed his earlier "new Bob Dylan" image for Born in the USA. It worked.
  • Train Song: "Land of Hope and Dreams", "Downbound Train" and "Tucson Train" among others. "I'm on Fire" also arguably fits.
  • Tunnel of Love: The title track is a Type 2.
  • Unplugged Version: The tours accompanying The Ghost of Tom Joad and Devils & Dust were almost entirely solo acoustic and featured some substantially rearranged versions of older band songs.
    • Subverted on Bruce Springsteen's MTV Unplugged appearance. He first played an acoustic version of "Born to Run," which is this trope played straight. Then, he turned to his band, shrugged, and they all plugged in and played an electric set. The album MTV released for the show had the "Un" of "Unplugged" scratched out.
    • It's gotten to the point where "Born in the USA" is almost always played acoustically, as some people still simply do not get the meaning and need to have it explained to them slowly and clearly.
  • Visual Innuendo: He often plays up phallic imagery on stage using guitars and mic stands.
  • Vocal Evolution: His voice mellowed considerably in the 90s.
  • War Is Hell: "Born in the U.S.A." from the 1984 album of the same title.
  • Wham Line: On "The River"
    "Then I got Mary pregnant, and man, that was all she wrote."
    • And on "Atlantic City"
    "So honey, last night I met this guy and I'm gonna a do little favor for him."
  • A Wild Rapper Appears!: The song "Rocky Ground" features a rapped verse by gospel singer Michelle Moore.


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