Bruce Springsteen discusses his favourite singer of all time: “No one can sing like [him]”

From day one, Bruce Springsteen never claimed to be one of the biggest rock stars in the world. Even though he had the calling to play some of the loudest rock and roll music that he could, he also understood the hard work that went into making a song that could touch people’s hearts, whether that meant making one lyrical change or working up the arrangement that toches that one primal nerve. Although Springsteen can write phenomenal songs, he knows it’s also about the person behind the microphone.

Throughout his career, Springsteen was always known for making songs that sounded romantically tragic throughout their runtime. Even though the characters that fill albums like Born to Run might be up against odds that are never in their favour, they refuse to back down, knowing that sometimes the odds might turn back around under the right circumstances.

When writing songs for his amusement, Springsteen knew that songs may have been better suited to other artists. Despite being able to put together a massive backing track for a song like ‘Because the Night’, Jimmy Iovine’s suggestion to give the song to Patti Smith became one of the most enduring songs of her career, capturing the spirit of young love in the heart of the city.

While Springsteen has been indebted to the sounds of early rock and rollers like Little Richard and Chuck Berry, his life seemed to change once he heard Roy Orbison for the first time. Not looking to play the same kind of rock and roll as his contemporaries, Orbison possessed a certain haunting quality in his voice, blending elements of rock and roll and an operatic tenor in songs like ‘Only the Lonely’.

Though Springsteen would take elements from his favourite writers when putting together his first ballads, he wanted to have the kind of power in his voice that Orbison got out of his. When inducting him into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the frontman would say, “In 1975, we went into the studio to make Born to Run. I wanted to have words like Bob Dylan and sounded like Phil Spector, but most of all, I wanted to sing like Roy Orbison. And everybody knows, no one can sing like Roy Orbison”.

Springsteen even managed to fit a shoutout to Orbison in the lyrics of the opening song ‘Thunder Road’. As the protagonist and his lady love are about to ditch their nowhere town in search of something better, it’s the sound of Orbison’s voice on ‘Only the Lonely’ that gives them the final push out into the world.

Outside of his immaculate voice, Springsteen also thought that the key to Orbison’s performances came from the darkness throughout his catalogue, saying, “But for me, Roy’s ballads were always best when you were alone and in the dark. Roy scrapped the idea that you needed verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus to have a hit. His arrangements were complex and operatic, they had rhythm and movement, and they addressed the underside of pop romance. They were scary. His voice was unearthly”.

Even though Springsteen’s music might radiate positivity in the listener, he knows that no happiness can come without some hardship before it, and Orbison’s music is the clearest indicator of that bittersweet feeling. Orbison may have channelled a lot of heartache in his lyrics, but it sometimes takes those emotional scars to resonate with fans worldwide.

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