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"Born to Run" turned 40 this month. (Credit: Amazon)


Secrets of 'Born to Run'

Asbury Park NJ 07712

The greatest works of art transcend the time and place in which they were made, remaining as vivid and meaningful as they were the instant the artist first conceived of them. They break away from the constraints of history and embed themselves in our hearts and minds.

"Born to Run" catapulted a 26-year-old Bruce Springsteen to super-stardom after its release on Aug. 25, 1975, but it is an album of today, tomorrow, always. It reverberates with the urgency of youth, the madness of the soul, and the passions of that time in life when everything seems ahead of us, if we could just break free from the expected and the ordinary to pursue it.

From the harmonica and piano introduction to "Thunder Road" at the album's start through Springsteen's howl of pain that closes "Jungleland," The Boss creates a symphony of cinematic imagery ("The amusement park rises bold and stark/kids are huddled on the beach in the mist") and profoundly beautiful sonic progressions (Rolling Stone critic Greil Marcus called Roy Bittan's "Backstreets" intro "so stately, so heartbreaking, that it might be a prelude to the rock 'n' roll version of 'The Iliad.'"), to capture emotions that have endured for as long as young men and women have dared to dream big dreams.

The title song of

Credit: Amazon

Six months on one song?

The title song of "Born to Run" remains perhaps Springsteen's most iconic work. It took a long, long time to finalize. He intended for it to achieve the Wall of Sound effect created by Phil Spector and did so through an intricate recording process that involved lots of experimenting, the layering of many different instruments (some that would stick and others -- the female voice chorus, the dominant strings -- that wouldn't), and other complications over the course of six months.

Springsteen put out two albums before

Credit: Amazon

A last chance power drive

Springsteen put out two albums before "Born to Run": "Greetings From Asbury Park" and "The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle." They were critical successes and earned him a devoted audience, but they weren't the smash hits Columbia Records sought. "Born to Run" was produced under a tremendous amount of pressure and with the stakes impossibly high: Springsteen's career was hanging in the balance.

Speaking in the documentary

Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Influence of the movies

Speaking in the documentary "Wings For Wheels" made for the album's 30th anniversary, Springsteen says he spent a lot of time watching movies around when he made the album. The title of "Thunder Road" comes from a 1958 Robert Mitchum movie about bootleggers, for example, though in the '70s Springsteen said he never saw it.

After the song

Credit: Rick Diamond / Getty Images

Today's E Street Band comes together (mostly)

After the song "Born to Run" had been recorded, drummer Ernest "Boom" Carter and keyboardist David Sancious left the band. They were replaced by Max Weinberg and Roy Bittan, who are essential members of the E Street Band today. Steve Van Zandt, another staple, joined during the "Born to Run" tours.

The album is Springsteen's, of course, and it

Credit: Scott Halleran / Getty Images

A beautiful friendship

The album is Springsteen's, of course, and it belongs to the whole E Street Band, but there's an undercurrent of friendship and love directed throughout at the Big Man, Clarence Clemons, Springsteen's longtime saxophonist and onstage rock who died in 2011.

Springsteen, in "Wings For Wheels," says the lyric, "The Big Man joined the band," begins the most important and essential part of "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out." The 2 ½ minute saxophone solo in "Jungleland" is in many respects the heart of the album. And then there's that remarkable cover image, with Springsteen leaning on Clemons' shoulder, which says so much about what the E Street Band has always represented.

Springsteen is synonymous with New Jersey, but he

Credit: Facebook / Record Plant

NYC ties

Springsteen is synonymous with New Jersey, but he has a deep and enduring connection with New York City. Much of the album was recorded at the iconic Record Plant on West 44th Street. The band played four famous nights at The Bottom Line and one at Gerde's Folk City on the "Born to Run" tour.

Soon after the album's release, Springsteen landed on

Credit: YouTube / The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

"Born to Run" today

Soon after the album's release, Springsteen landed on the covers of Time and Newsweek in the same week. He was uncomfortable, to say the least, but a meteoric rise began that hasn't stopped.

Most of the songs on "Born to Run" have become staples of Springsteen's live shows. The album is frequently cited at the very top of any list of the best albums, it's considered Springsteen's magnum opus and it is, he has said, the work that established a blueprint for the sort of songs he'd write, and the sort of people he'd write about, for the rest of his life.

It's also become ripe for parody: most memorably, by Springsteen himself, when he joined Jimmy Fallon for "Gov. Chris Christie's Traffic Jam."


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