On This Day (September 23) in 1949 Bruce Springsteen was born in New Jersey. ‘Thunder Road’ is one of Bruce Springsteen’s most performed songs, audience favorite, and the opening track on his 1975 breakthrough album Born to Run. It is ranked as one of Springsteen’s greatest songs, and often appears on lists of the top rock songs of all time. (In fact, in 2004, it was ranked #1 on the list of the “885 All-Time Greatest Songs” compiled by the University of Pennsylvania’s public radio station!)
The song’s title comes from the Robert Mitchum film noir about a bootlegger entitled ’Thunder Road’. Springsteen declared that he was somehow inspired by the movie despite not having seen it. As he once said: “I never saw the movie, I only saw the poster in the lobby of the theater.” (I only recently learned that “The Ballad of Thunder Road”, the theme song for the 1957 movie, was performed and co-written by actor Robert Mitchum!)
Where I grew up (in Northeast Philadelphia) we were all early Springsteen fanatics from when he released his first album, Greetings From Asbury Park, in January 1973 – earlier than he broke nationally. The Jersey shore was just an hour away and we all went ‘down the shore’ in the summer for relief from the heat and humidity. i think this song had such resonance with the guys I hung out with on my streets in Philadelphia (Tustin, Megargee, and Evarts) is that it promised a world and reality beyond what we were living during our ‘coming of age’ years, and that there was hope for the future. And in the afterglow of the sixties, we totally believed it (I still do!) And the music is so good!
Anyway, this performance is dedicated to Squirrel (with whom I first got together to pound out this song on the piano with his help on guitar), the other best friends from my youth, patient Marianne B (I didn’t forget!) and of course, to Bruce – Happy Birthday!