Born To Run

It's holiday season, and that means time to go over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house again. Today's song is listed as the number one road trip song by TimeOut Magazine.

Born to Run is the Boss’s third album, released in 1975 and one of the best in rock history. On long trips, you should listen to the whole thing, from start (the haunted but hopeful “Thunder Road”) to finish (the epic, tragic “Jungleland”). If you have to pick just one track, though, the title song is the way to go.

Like Springsteen’s later smash “Born in the U.S.A.,” “Born to Run” is darker than its sing-along chorus lyric may seem. “Tramps like us, baby, we were born to run” doesn’t sound very different from, say, the trippy drifter come-on of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild.” But there’s not much joy in the ride that Springsteen has in mind.

The song revs up in a dead-end strip of working-class New Jersey, a “runaway American dream”; soon the singer is begging his girlfriend, Wendy—read Peter Pan into that, if you like—to run away from it with him. But he knows they’re not the only ones trying: “The highway's 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.”

All of this gloom and danger is built on richly layered production: The song is like a motorcycle rushing forward while perched on a wall of sound. Embedded in the scuffed poetry of the lyrics is a potent combination of rebellion, sex, disgust and determination—brought to kickass life by the throaty passion of Springsteen’s voice, the liberating wail of Clarence Clemons’s sax and the sheer propulsive force of the E Street Band’s backup.

“Someday girl, I don't know when/We’re gonna get to that place where we really wanna go,” Springsteen promises. And “Born to Run,” for all its spikes, does take you to that place. It’s a love song, an urban-jungle cry and a perfect anthem of pedal-to-the-metal escape.

What does tomorrow bring?

Tune in to find out! 

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