Born to Run

Bruce Springsteen

Song Review by Jason Ankeny

With "Born to Run," Bruce Springsteen achieved the perfect balance between working-class reality and rock & roll mythology. A blue-collar fairy tale evoking Phil Spector in its romanticized grandeur and Bob Dylan in its street-corner poetic grit, critic Greil Marcus once described it as "a '57 Chevy running on melted-down Crystals records," a superb metaphor which mirrors not only the song's sonic ambitions, but its thematic aims as well. "Born to Run" is teen melodrama in excelsis, overblown and histrionic in ways Spector never imagined; it smacks of the kind of palpable, life-or-death desperation which threads its way through everything from Romeo and Juliet to Rebel Without a Cause, where every action, every thought, and every word bears the complete weight of the world. When Springsteen sings "I wanna die with you, Wendy, on the street tonight in an everlasting kiss," the moment trembles with apocalyptic fervor. Set against the backdrop of the Jersey shore, "Born to Run" paints a remarkably vivid portrait of life on the margins -- its characters prowl their territory like caged tigers, dead-end kids cruising up and down the strip searching in vain for their escape route out. "The highways jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive/Everybody's out on the run tonight but there's no place left to hide" -- hopes and dreams become virtually indistinguishable from resignation and acceptance as the images pile on top of each other. Still, for all its melancholy and poignance, "Born to Run" is first and foremost a celebration of the rock & roll spirit, capturing the music's youthful abandon, delirious passion, and extraordinary promise with cinematic exhilaration. It's the record which made Springsteen a superstar, and its raw vitality and epic scope remain unmatched.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Born to Run 1975 Columbia 4:30
Greatest Hits 1995 Columbia 4:30
The Ultimate Rock Collection Gold and Platinum, Vol. 3: 1974-1979 1997
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 4:32
Rock: Train Kept a Rollin' 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 4:31
Sony Music 100 Years: Soundtrack for a Century 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 4:31
The Essential Bruce Springsteen 2003 Legacy / Columbia 4:32
17 Track Sampler 2003 4:30
Legends: We Will Rock You 2006
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 4:32
Live on Air 2007 Northworld 4:26
Legends Informercial Set 2007
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 4:32
Greatest Hits [2009] 2009 Sony Music Distribution 4:31
Greatest Hits [2009 Wal-Mart Exclusive] 2009 Columbia 4:30
The Promise 2010 Columbia / Sony Music Entertainment 0:00
The Album Collection:1973-1984, Vol. 1 2014 Sony Legacy 4:29
The Ties That Bind: The River Collection 2015 Columbia / Sony Music 0:00
Chapter & Verse 2016 Columbia 4:31
The Other Band Tour 2017 Sonic Boom 6:17
Blinded by the Light [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] 2019
Original Soundtrack
Sony CMG / Sony Music 4:27
Agora Ballroom, 1978 Left Field Media 7:00
Born in the Studio Archive