Our 5 favorite songs from The River by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
Bruce Springsteen | Photo by Danny Clinch | courtesy of the artist

Tonight, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band brings The River tour to Philly at the Wells Fargo Center. The occasion? The release of The Ties That Bind: The River Collection, a wonderfully packaged box set of recordings from the sessions Bruce and the band recorded for his 1980 double album epic, The River. Originally intended to be a 10 song single album, Springsteen spent almost two years recording and refining the album. Having turned in the initial ten song collection to his label, Columbia Records, Springsteen took the album back and returned with an album Rolling Stone, and many of his fans called a “rock & roll milestone.”

From start to finish, The River, Bruce’s followup to Darkness On The Edge of Town, is an opus. It was the third album in a trilogy of classic albums (Born To Run, and Dakrness preceded it) where Bruce found his voice, and developed his characters to a new level of maturity. The River became his first significant break out album by measure of the Billboard charts, including a top ten song with “Hungry Heart,” and the number one album position.

The release of The River in 1980 was followed by a massive two year tour, with shows that came to Philly in December 1980, playing three shows at The Spectrum on December 6th, December 8th and 9th. To Philly fans, the emotional intensity of those shows was heightened by the death of John Lennon on the 8th. On the 9th, Bruce and the band almost didn’t play because of Lennon’s death. According to Brucebase, he came out and introduced “Born To Run,” by saying to the crowd:

I’d just like to say one thing….I appreciate it….and it’s a hard night to come out and play tonight when so much’s been lost….the first record…the first record that I ever learned was a record called ‘Twist and Shout’ (cheers)…..and if it wasn’t….if it wasn’t for John Lennon, we’d all be in some place very different tonight (cheers)…. it’s….it’s an unreasonable… world and you have to live with a lot of things that are just unliveable …. and….it’s a hard thing to come out and play but there’s just nothing else you can do……”

The shows I saw on the 8th and 9th were an unforgettable two nights of some of the greatest rock and roll ever performed live.

Bruce returns this evening (Clarence and Danny, we’ll miss you) with the E Streeters and will play The River in its entirety, along with several handfuls of songs guaranteed to rock the Wells Fargo Center.

We asked several of XPN’s hosts to pick some of their favorite songs from The River. This is a tough one, but here are five of our favorites, starting with the title song.

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