Friday Five: Bruce Springsteen Covers

Juli Thanki | June 26th, 2009

Today we’re going to be talking about the Boss. Nope, not that dude in a tie promoting synergy, but Bruce Springsteen, who, as you may know, can turn a pretty phrase or two. Everyone from Faith Hill to Hank Williams III has covered this Jersey boy, but here are five artists and songs of special note.

  • Trisha Yearwood - Real Live Woman 5. “Sad Eyes” – Trisha Yearwood
    Georgia’s own covered this lovely ballad (with a little help from Jackson Browne) on her 2000 album Real Live Woman. You know, being able to work a Springsteen song like this is pretty much the epitome of real live womanhood. Well played, Yearwood.
  • Chris LeDoux - Haywire 4. “Tougher Than the Rest” – Chris LeDoux
    LeDoux knows tough, so we’ll follow his lead here as he covers this cut from Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love. Besides, we’d rather have him (or Travis Tritt, who also recorded a version) than the “handsome Dan” or “sweet-talkin’ Romeo” mentioned in the lyric.
  • Emmylou Harris - Songbird 3. “Racing in the Streets” – Emmylou Harris
    Emmylou’s covered her fair share of Springsteen (“Tougher Than the Rest”, “Mansion on the Hill”), but her live version of “Racing in the Streets” might be her best Bruce effort to date.
  • Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward - The Lonesome Dirge 2. “Atlantic City” – Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward
    This one comes from 2008’s little known gem The Lonesome Dirge. Perhaps I’m biased because this is one of my favorite songs, but as far as lyrics go, it’s hard to top the simultaneous hope and crushing inevitability of “Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact/But maybe everything that dies someday comes back/Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty/And meet tonight in Atlantic City.”
  • Johnny Cash - Johnny 99 1. “Highway Patrolman” – Johnny Cash
    I first fell in love with this tale of two brothers, one a cop, the other a murderer, on Bruce’s Nebraska. But after hearing Johnny Cash sing it with a voice akin to God’s own, no other version can compare. “Highway Patrolman” also raises that age old question: How far would you go for blood?

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  1. [...] did a Springsteen Friday Five on The 9513 three years ago, but there are so many good covers that it’s time for a second [...]
  1. Brady Vercher
    June 26, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Brady: “Hey, the topic of the Friday Five this week is Bruce Springsteen covers.”
    Brody: [eyes widen] “Is the Johnny Cash cover on there?”
    Brady: “It’s number one.”
    Brody: “Damn straight! It better be!”

  2. Kelly
    June 26, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Awesome list – I thought about putting Springsteen down as my choice for undiscovered talent last week, but it looks like y’all have got that covered.

  3. Jim C
    June 26, 2009 at 8:49 am

    I’ll take the Band’s version of Atlantic City over almost anyone’s. Have to admit that I’ve never heard of Rodney Parker though.

  4. Baron Lane
    June 26, 2009 at 8:49 am

    Cool list.I also like the Drive By Trucker’s version of State Trooper from Nebraska. I also prefer Hank III’s version of Atlantic City though Rodney Parker is damn close.

  5. Kelly
    June 26, 2009 at 9:08 am

    I’m with Jim on The Band’s version of Atlantic City…

  6. Paul W Dennis
    June 26, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Actually the title track on Cash’s JOHNNY 99 album also was written by Springsteen – that song, “Johnny 99″ is my favorite Springsteen cover

  7. blackjackdavid
    June 26, 2009 at 9:23 am

    The immortal Townes Van Zandt also recorded a ragged, but right version “Racing in the Streets” on his “Roadsongs” CD. It’s a great collection of Townes doing covers of the songs of Springsteen, Dylan, LIghtnin’ Hopkins, et al, and includes a killer version of the Stones’ “Dead Flowers.”

  8. Craig R.
    June 26, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Springsteen’s ” Nebraska” is my favorite album. But I have to say that I have never heard Cash’s voice described in such a telling way-“a voice akin to God’s own.” I will think about that statement and the complex truths of what it means for a long time to come. Thank you Juli.

  9. Michael
    June 26, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    I definitely prefer Emmylou’s version of “Tougher Than the Rest” to Chris LeDoux’s but this list depicts a nice variety. I was just listening to a Springsteen album earlier this week.

  10. Silvio
    June 26, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    No offense to Juli, but she’s hardly the first writer to equate Cash’s voice with the voice of God. I agree that this is a very good list, thanks Juli for including some non-obvious choices such as Rodney Parker — gives me something new to explore. I’m sure you could repeat this topic for quite a while without running out of choices.

  11. Brody Vercher
    June 26, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    I might have to go check out that Rodney Parker album again because I don’t remember it being all that memorable when it was released, but it gets a lot of love.

  12. TimeO
    June 26, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Two more nominees:

    Raul Malo’s of “Downbound Train”
    Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Cadillac Ranch”

    I thought it might be intresting also to compile a list of country covers of Micahel Jackson songs….But, I wonder if there were any?! I remember Barbara Mandrell doing “He’s[She’s] Out of My Life”….but can’t think of any others.

  13. Juli
    June 26, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Timeo, IIRC Robbie Fulks used to cover Michael Jackson during his live shows. There may have been tentative plans for an MJ tribute album at one time, but there was, as you can imagine, a whole bunch of red tape.

  14. Mike Wimmer
    June 26, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Raul Malo’s “Downbound Train” is really quite awesome.

    I also like John Anderson’s version of Atlantic City as well.

    And Charlie Robison’s cover of Racing In The Streets actually gives Emmylou’s version a run for it’s money in my book.

  15. Matt B.
    June 26, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    John Berry covered “Thunder Road” on one of his early self-released albums and I was always partial to that.

  16. Rick
    June 26, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    I’d like to mention Southern Pacific’s live cover of “Pink Cadillac” primarily because of the worst bass guitar solo “jam” in recorded history! Apart from that sad bass guitar / drum solo “jam” in the middle its an okay effort. Well, sort of anyway…

    PS – What about country covers of songs from Prince? I think The Derailers’ cover of “Raspberry Beret” would definitely be in the top 5! (lol)

  17. El Pescador
    June 27, 2009 at 10:30 am

    One of my favorites is “Across the Border” by Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. It paints a more vivid picture for me than Springsteen’s version.

  18. mikeky
    June 27, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    In reference to Michael Jackson songs, Willie Nelson also cut ‘She’s Out Of My Life’ in the ’80s. I think it’s on the ‘Island In The Sea’ LP (if memory serves).

  19. mikeky
    June 27, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Memory didn’t serve. It’s actually on the ‘City Of New Orleans’ LP.

  20. Stormy
    June 27, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Rick–Here is a nice country version of Bowie for you:

  21. JD
    June 27, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Atlantic City by The Band. Nice touch on accordian by Garth Hudson

  22. Mz R
    June 28, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Rodney Parker blows that shit up…greatness!

  23. Ricardo Arias
    July 21, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    It’s obviously hard to choose only five versions… In my opinion the chosen ones are great, but I missed some other options.
    “Atlantic City” by Hank III. In my opinion, the very best version of this song (including the Boss’ one). The voice of Hank flows over desperation and melancholia, specially on the last lines.
    “All That Heaven Will Allow” by The Mavericks. Great vocal job by Raul Malo. And the atmosphere they created sounds really beautiful.
    A salute from a Spain.

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