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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.
Written at 7½ West End Court in Long Branch, New Jersey in early 1974, the song was Bruce Springsteen's last-ditch effort to make it big. The prior year, Springsteen had released two albums to critical acclaim but with little commercial success. The lyrics to the song are appropriately epic for his last-ditch, all-or-nothing shot at the stars, yet they remain rooted in the universal desperation of adolescence: Will you walk with me out on the wire, cause baby I'm just a scared and lonely rider...We gotta get out while we're young, 'cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run.'
Written in the first person, the song is a love letter to a girl named Wendy (Wendy let me in I wanna be your friend I wanna guard your dreams and visions...; I wanna die with you Wendy on the streets tonight/in an everlasting kiss!), for whom the hot-rod-riding protagonist certainly has enough passion to love, but perhaps not the patience. However, Springsteen has noted that it has a much simpler core: getting out of Freehold.
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.
In the period prior to the release of Born to Run Springsteen was becoming well known (especially in his native northeast) for his epic 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.
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.
The track was recorded at 914 Sound Studios in Blauvelt, New York amidst touring breaks during 1974, with final recording done on August 6, well in advance of the rest of the album, and featured Ernest "Boom" Carter on the drums and David Sancious on keyboards; they would be replaced by Max Weinberg and Roy Bittan for the rest of the album and in the ongoing E Street Band (which was still uncredited on Springsteen's records at the time). The song was also recorded with only Springsteen and Mike Appel as producers; it would be later in the following year, when work on the album bogged down, that Jon Landau was brought in as an additional producer. Future record executive Jimmy Iovine engineered the majority of the sessions.
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 in early November 1974, and within a couple of weeks was given to other progressive rock radio outlets as well, including WNEW in New York, WMMS in Cleveland, WBCN in Boston, and WVBR in Ithaca, New York. It immediately became quite popular on these stations, and led to cuts from Springsteen's first two albums being frequently played as well as building anticipation for the album release.
Upon release in August 1975, the song and the album became unparalleled successes for Springsteen, springing him into stardom, and resulting in simultaneous cover stories in Time and Newsweek magazines.
Honors and accolades
- Born to Run - 4:31
- 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.
"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 and the single was a top 40 hit, reaching number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100.
- Bruce Springsteen – guitar, vocals
- Garry Tallent – bass guitar
- Ernest "Boom" Carter – drums
- David Sancious – keyboards
- Danny Federici – organ
- Clarence Clemons – saxophone
Live performance history
"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.
"Born to Run" predates the music video era and no film or video clip was made of it at the time.
- At the end of The Office (UK TV series) episode "The Quiz," David Brent triumphantly air-guitars the song's famous opening in celebrataion of a supposed victory in a trivia quiz challenge.
- The children's show, Sesame Street, featured a song about arithmetic called "Born to Add", sung by a Springsteen-like Muppet. Its background music, however, resembles Springsteen's "Jungleland", though featuring a "Born to Run"-ish saxophone solo played by a Muppet named Clarice, a reference to Clarence Clemons.
- The British comedy program, Spitting Image, once featured a Bruce Springsteen puppet singing a parody entitled "Born To Teach Woodwork".
- In The Simpsons episode, "Lisa's Rival", Lisa Simpson imagines herself in "the second best band in America" playing their "number two hit" called "Born to Runner-Up".
- In an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Joel Robinson chides Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot for teaching Gypsy some racy lyrics from "Born to Run" ("Just wrap your legs 'round these velvet rims / and strap your hands across my engines").
- In The Sopranos episode, "Long Term Parking", Christopher Moltisanti shows up late for a meeting with Tony Soprano and Silvio Dante. Chris' explanation quoted from the "Born to Run" lyrics: "the highway was jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive." Incidentally, Dante is played by E Street bandmate Steven Van Zandt.
- In the Jeremy Clarkson's Motorworld episode on Detroit, Jeremy Clarkson uses the line "broken hero on a last chance powerdrive" when driving a Dodge Viper.
- A Season 1 episode of the TV show, Lost, is named after the song.
- A Season 2 episode of the TV show, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, is named after the song.
- Jimmy Fallon opened the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards with a cover of the song, featuring Tina Fey, Jon Hamm, Jane Lynch, Lea Michele, Amber Riley, Cory Monteith, Chris Colfer, Kate Gosselin, Nina Dobrev, Joel McHale, Jorge Garcia, Randy Jackson and Tim Gunn.
- Futurama episode 31st Century Fox used a quote from this song in a traffic warning sign above the Jersey Turnpike: "Highway jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power dive"
- The popular 2009 book about running Born to Run by Christopher McDougall was named after the song, and the lyrics are also quoted at the start of one chapter.
- In the Japanese novel Battle Royale, the main character Shuya Nanahara is a Bruce Springsteen fanatic, despite the fictional Republic of East Asia's ban on rock music. The lyrics to "Born to Run" are quoted a few times in the book, as Shuya applies them to his own need to get out of Japan, down to singing them, replacing Wendy with his Noriko, in the very closing of the book. They also appear in the opening quotes of the book.
- In one strip of Zits, Jeremy Duncan's father, Walt, sings the song while washing his car, wearing flip-flops and boxer shorts.
Music (also see "Covers" below)
- Indie-rock musician and "talking-songs" creator, Adam Gnade, ends his single, "We Live Nowhere and Know No One", with the line "because Bruce had it right and Johnny had it wrong/we're not born to lose/we're born to run." The "Johnny" referred to in the song is late musician and New York Dolls member Johnny Thunders, who wrote the song "Born to Lose."
- The Hold Steady's song, "Charlemange in Sweatpants", references "Born to Run" with the line: "Tramps like us and we like tramps." They also reference "Born to Run" in the song, "Barfruit Blues", with the line: "Half the crowd's calling out for 'Born to Run', the other half's calling out for 'Born to Lose', baby, we were born to choose."
- Titus Andronicus references "Born to Run" on their song "A More Perfect Union" with the line: "No, I never wanted to change the world, but I'm looking for a new New Jersey, Because tramps like us, baby, we were born to die".
- The Lou Reed song "Street Hassle" includes a spoken section performed by Bruce Springsteen that ends with the line "Y'know tramps like us, we were born to pay."
- The song "Difference" by rapper Childish Gambino has a line referencing "Born to Run" in which he raps: "Springsteen this city because this city we were born to run"
- The song "Redemption" by Frank Turner references the lyrics of Born To Run in the first verse: "I was walking home to my house through the snow from the station/When Springsteen came clear in my headphones with a pertinent question/Oh, is love really real..."
- Comedian Robert Wuhl discussed and performed parts of this song in his act inquiring as to whether a song with the phrases "suicide machine" and "we gotta get out (of New Jersey?) while we're young" was appropriate for New Jersey's state anthem.
- In the 2010 series of The X Factor, contestant Storm Lee sang it on week two of the live shows which was Heroes night.
WNCX Radio station in Cleveland, Ohio plays this song every Friday at 5 p.m.
- Melissa Etheridge sang "Born to Run" at the September 11 benefit, The Concert for New York City, and again at the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors, where she performed the song for Springsteen himself, one of the Center's honorees for that year.
- Frankie Goes To Hollywood covered this song in their debut album Welcome to the Pleasuredome in 1984.
- British band, McFly, performed the song for BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge on December 10, 2007.
- The Australian band, Something for Kate, frequently covers "Born to Run" at live performances.
- A rare live recording of Roger Daltrey, lead singer of The Who, singing "Born to Run" at a live solo performance appears on his greatest-hits/rarities collection "Gold."
- Light This City recorded their take on Born To Run during the recording of their final record, "Stormchaser," the track was featured on their Myspace for a time and can be found on YouTube as well
- Wolfsbane has a heavy metal cover of this song on their 1993 EP "Everything Else"
- Suzi Quatro covered this song in 1995.
- Scottish singer Amy Macdonald performed an acoustic version on recent tours.
- Ohio based acoustic group Free Wild performed a cover version of this song in their 2011 and 2012 tours, often finishing the song with a Springsteen inspired version of the children's song Itsy Bitsy Spider.