Bruce Springsteen picks his favourite lyric: “The greatest rock and roll lines of all time”

Bruce Springsteen is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to all facets of the music-making process, but one element matters more than the rest to him. Songwriting is his true love; he’s made a career out of creating lyrics which evoke powerful emotions inside the hearts of listeners, and he knows the ingredients it takes to strike gold.

Throughout his iconic career, Springsteen has empowered the lives of millions with his words. However, the shoe has also been on the other foot, and Springsteen would never have become ‘The Boss’ if it wasn’t for his obsession with the art form, including its lyrics.

The first time Springsteen heard The Beatles as a child lit a spark within him. Music quickly became his entire world, with a young Bruce seeking out the latest rock ‘n’ roll sounds and falling in love with the British invasion bands.

Another group that has occupied a place in his heart from an early age is The Rolling Stones, an act he believes has crafted the finest piece of wordsmithery in the history of music.

Springsteen believes the Stones are a rock band like no other, and as a child, he hero-worshipped Mick Jagger and his bunch of hellraisers. With nothing else to do with his time except occupy his mind, Springsteen would sit in his bedroom fantasising about being part of the legendary group. Little did he know that one day, he’d perform with his teenage idols and call them his friends.

In one interview, Springsteen reflected on this time in his life, specifically his first exposure to The Rolling Stones’ second album, 12 X 5. It was love at first glance, with The Boss staying up “all night” to learn Keith Richards’ solo from ‘It’s All Over Now’.

Additionally, Springsteen had a recurring dream that he would be in attendance at a concert by The Rolling Stones at the Convention Hall in Asbury Park, only for Mick Jagger to fall ill. “Suddenly, a young hero rises, a local kid. Right out of the audience. He can ‘front’: he’s got the voice, the look, the moves, no acne, and he plays a hell of a guitar,” he explained.

Despite remembering the incident decades later, Springsteen vividly recalled: “The band clicks, Keith is smiling, and suddenly, the Stones aren’t in such a rush to get Mick out of his sickbed. How does it end? Always the same…. the crowd goes wild.”

While Springsteen could wax lyrical until the sun falls about his love of The Rolling Stones, ‘Street Fighting Man’ is the song he considers to be the pinnacle of rock ‘n’ roll lyricism.

The anti-war political anthem was written in response to protests against the Vietnam War, which is a topic close to Springsteen’s heart. After successfully avoiding the draft to serve in Vietnam, the singer-songwriter was left with a sense of guilt. He also wrote ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ as a thank you to the veterans who put their bodies on the line for their country.

Springsteen’s acutely aware that he could have been one of the many young men who didn’t return from Vietnam, and the unnecessary conflict could have been avoided if those who inspired ‘Street Fighting Man’ were listened to by the powers that be.

Jagger, who isn’t known for being actively political, found himself at a protest in London in 1968 and felt compelled to write ‘Street Fighting Man’ in response to the profound day. While it’s an emotionally charged song with a pivotal message, Springsteen’s favourite lyric is a heartfelt line that shows Jagger’s vulnerability.

Speaking about his love of ‘Street Fighting Man’ to writer David Marsh, Springsteen said: “That one line, ‘What can a poor boy do but sing in a rock and roll band?’ is one of the greatest rock and roll lines of all time. It has that edge-of-the-cliff thing when you hit it. And it’s funny; it’s got humour to it.”

Further expressing his love of ‘Street Fighting Man’, Springsteen incorporated the Beggars Banquet classic into his concerts throughout the 1980s.

Nevertheless, Jagger disowned ‘Street Fighting Man’ in 1995, telling Rolling Stone: “I’m not sure if it really has any resonance for the present day. I don’t really like it that much. I thought it was a very good thing at the time.”

While Jagger may have distanced himself from the track in the ’90s, sadly, ‘Street Fighting Man’ now feels as vital as ever due to ongoing world events despite being written almost 50 years ago.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *