Independence Day and Springsteen Covers

Happy 4th of July to all you Americans out there! In honour honor of Independence Day, I’ve not only used American spelling, but I’ve also assembled a little Top 10 covers of my favorite American of all time: Bruce Springsteen!

1. Johnny Cash, I’m on Fire. (Original version)

 

The Man in Black had previously recorded two Springsteen covers (Johnny 99 and Highway Patrolman) on his 1983 album Johnny 99. Those versions are great but his interpretation of I’m on Fire is simply sublime. His deep vocals seamlessly play up the song’s sexual tension.

2. Rage Against the Machine, The Ghost of Tom Joad. (Original version)

 

The original was recorded as a quiet folk song but Rage’s version is drastically louder. Warning! It might take you a while to realize it’s the same song! Rage’s Tom Morello has performed the song live with Bruce on several occasions and his soaring guitar can even be heard on the latest Springsteen album, Wrecking Ball.

3. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Blinded by the Light. (Original version)

 

This cover of Bruce’s first song on his first album was a #1 hit for them in 1976, while the original never even made it to the charts. Manfred Mann’s version replaces the line “Cut loose like a deuce” with “Revved up like a deuce.” On his VH1Storytellers special, Springsteen jokingly said: “I have a feeling that is why the song skyrocketed to #1.”

4. Eddie Vedder, My City of Ruins. (Original version)

 

Bruce originally wrote this song about Asbury Park, NJ, but it took on a new meaning after 9⁄11. Vedder performed his version (in front of The Boss & the President!) at the 32nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors as part of the multi-artist tribute to Bruce Springsteen. The following month, when a devastating earthquake ravaged Haiti, a fan on the Pearl Jam message board suggested Vedder should release his cover as a single with proceeds going to Haiti. That “suggestion” became a reality with sales from the single benefiting Artists for Peace and Justice Haiti Relief.

5. The Band, Atlantic City. (Original version)

 

Released 16 years after their farewell epic concert The Last Waltz, a Robbie Robertson-less Band released the excellent Jericho album, with four original tracks and eight covers. Among those covered were Bob Dylan’s Blind Willie McTell and Springsteen’s Atlantic City. Levon Helm simply nails the vocals on the latter. Coincidentally, Springsteen paid tribute to the late Helm by performing a heartfelt version of the Band classic, The Weight in May during the final first leg show of his Wrecking Ball Tour.

6. Pete Yorn, New York City Serenade. (Original version)

During an E Street Radio roundtable discussion, Yorn, who wasn’t a fan of Bruce in the 80s, talked about getting into Bruce’s music with this specific song. He said that when he was in college, a friend of his recommended he listen to this song. He did and was immediately blown away. He said: “His lyrics really got me, and then the melodies and from there it was over; I was a big, big fan.”

7. Kurt Vile, Downbound Train. (Original version)

 

Rock critics constantly compare him to Springsteen so it should come as no surprise that he decided to tackle a Bruce song on his last EP. This song is by far the darkest track from the upbeat Born in the U.S.A. album and Vile does it justice with his fuzzy guitars and slurred vocals.

8. David Bowie, It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City. (Original version)

 

Bowie originally recorded a version of this song in 1974, but it was only released 15 years later on his Sound + Vision box set. In 1973, Bowie showed up at Max’s Kansas City in NYC and caught Springsteen’s performance. He had never heard of a guy named “Springsteen”until that night. The two officially met the following year and Bowie complimented Springsteen by saying there was no other American artist he was interested in covering.

9. Jesse Malin, Hungry Heart. (Original version)

 

Malin perfectly captures the song’s sad lyrics with his stripped-down version. The song’s almost unrecognizable with his addition of a drum machine and fuzzy guitar, not to mention Malin’s gloomy vocal treatment. Springsteen must’ve liked what Malin did because in 2007, they recorded a duet called Broken Radio for Malin’s Glitter in the Gutter album and Bruce even appears in the music video!

10. Bettye LaVette, Streets of Philadelphia. (Original version)

The 61–year–old soul songstress’s take on Bruce’s Oscar winning tune is simply beautiful. Recorded for the 3–disc compilation album of 50 songs related to the history of America, Lavette’s version is definitely the standout track. She just infused so much soul into that song and made it her own.


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