‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.
To quote a Bruce song, this list has been a long time comin’. After all, twelve years ago we borrowed one of his song titles to name this site (a song that, surprisingly, doesn’t actually get covered very often). And over those twelve years, we’ve posted hundreds, maybe thousands, of Bruce covers: “Full Albums” tributes to Born in the U.S.A., Darkness at the Edge of Town, and Tunnel of Love; tributes to the tributes, honoring several classic Boss tribute records; a spotlight on the best “Born to Run” covers; and a million news posts. It’s time to pull it all together.
Appropriately enough for a man whose concerts routinely top three hours, this list is long. Fifty covers long, and even then we still found ourselves left with dozens of killer bonus tracks for our Patreon supporters. The hits are all here, of course, but Bruce’s catalog runs deep. This list includes many covers of lesser-known cuts and more recent songs – even one from his just-released solo album Western Stars. Though he turns 70 today, the man is not slowing down, and neither are the artists paying tribute to him. As Bruce famously sang, he learned more from a three-minute record than ever learned in school. Well, here are fifty artists who learned something from his three-minute records.
The list starts on Page 2.
What about Dave Edmunds’ “From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)”? It’s a great cover and in my opinion, a far better version than Bruce’s own.
We excluded covers that were released before Bruce’s own recordings. That took out Patti Smith’s “Because the Night,” several versions of “Fire,” and a bunch of others – including Dave Edmunds. Bruce gave away a lot of great songs!
Fair enough. Thanks for the explanation. I hereby rescind my vociferous objection. :)
Bruce Hamilton, A great song! I loved it from Edmunds before I knew about Bruce. Both versions are terrific!
What about the Rage cover of “Ghost of Tom Joad”? Should have gone in the middle of this list somewhere.
This list is a joke. Where’s Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s ‘Blinded by the Night?
*blinded by the light?
Normally I love your articles this one, missed the mark completely! So many horrible covers and you missed so many amazing ones! Thumbs down. Especially on his birthday.
Reason to Believe by The Beat Farmers! A great cover off my favorite album of all time (Tales of the New West). Also agree with the Dave Edmunds suggestion mentioned earlier. These 2 omissions alone tank this list.
Basia Bulat – Glory Days
Downbound Train covered by The Smithereens ……Great band ……New Jersey covering New Jersey. Rocks harder than original.
No The Clarks “The River” invalidates this list completely.
John Wesley Harding doing Jackson Cage should be number 1. That it is not on the list is at all is unforgivable.
Roger Meadows Taylor – Racing in the Street
Glad to see the love for the Band’s version of Atlantic City. My Number 1 but 3 is close enough. Nice article. Plenty of stuff I hadn’t heard before.
So I have a Springs Covers playlist and I believe the only overlap between this one and mine is The Band’s take on Atlantic City, though I scrolled through quickly so perhaps there are others.. Here is my list:
Devils and Dusts – Doc Bones and the Rattlesnakes
Johnny 99 – Mark Erelli and Jeffery Foucault
NYC Serenade – Pete Yorn
Atlantic City – The Band
Born in the USA – Richard Shindell
If I Should Fall Behind – Rose Cousins and Mark Erelli
Darkness on the Edge of Town – The Winter Blankets
Rosalita – The Rigbees
Thunder Road – Hayward Williams
The River – The Clarks
Reason to Belive – Aimee Mann and Sean Penn
State Trooper – Tony Lucca
I’m on Fire – Harry Manx and Kevin Breit
Tougher than the Rest – Shawn Colvin
Born to Run – Something for Kate
The Ghost of Tom Joad – Martyn Joseph
Further on Up the Road – Johnny Cash
I take that back, Shawn Colvin is on both lists.
Lucy Kaplansky’s Thunder Road
Dave Alvin, Seeds
Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s version of Born to Run is surprisingly good. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2g5lMRzPLZw
Billy Bragg is from East London (Barking), not South London
That was a horrid version, not as bad as their cover of ‘spirit in the night’ though.
this was meant to reply to tommiec’s comment. In my opinion, Patty Griffin’s version of “Stolen Car” should have been included in this list even though she didn’t stray from the original at all.
Wow. Such a miss.
“Because the Night”, by 10,000 Maniacs was super
“Fire”, by The Pointer Sisters was sublime
The eponymous offering “Blinded By the Light”, by Manfred Mann – most people don’t even know it’s a cover
“Pink Cadillac”, by Natalie Cole…yeah, it was a bit electro silly, but so is the song – stellar vocals though
So. Many. More. Better. Than. This. List.
We excluded songs Springsteen co-wrote, which ruled out “Because the Night,” and covers that were released before Bruce’s own recordings, which ruled out “Fire.” We stand by our Manfred Mann pick at #46, and our ranking Graham Parker’s “Pink Cadillac” higher than Natalie Cole’s.
I’m sorry you couldn’t enjoy a single minute of these three and a half hours of Bruce Springsteen covers. I’m going to guess you haven’t heard more than half of them before; maybe once you hear them as many times as the ones you listed, you’ll understand why we thought so well of them.
On the plus side, you have so many more better ones you can enjoy. In the end, that means we’re both enjoying the work of others performing these great songs, and that enjoyment can only make the world a better place.
Aussie band Ponyface did all of Nebraska. Worth a listen.
These things are fun because you discover artists you maybe weren’t exposed to before. This biggest ‘miss’ for my money is Townes Van Zandt’s great cover of ‘Racing in the Streets.’
I love Townes, but Emmylou Harris’ cover of Racing in the Street is amazing and she sings all the lyrics.
This is superb. Maybe not an official cover but still so good. Check it out.
Tom Morello and Jim James – The Ghost of Tom Joad And Jeff Healey – Adam Raised a Cain. Just like many things the good is forgotten and the lame live forever
Probably sacrilege to even mention it, but I really liked Big Daddy covering ‘Dancing In The Dark’.
We appreciate the mention…Bob Wayne of the Rhino band “Big Daddy.”
Hey, Bob – you guys are great fun. Bought a bunch of your tracks and listen regularly.
How could you not include “Highway Patrolman” by Dar Williams?
It is one of the best cover songs ever. It takes that song to the next level.
Greg Kihn (Khin?)’s “Thunder Road” is outstanding and overlooked here.
I’m genuinely stunned at how many people post comments disagreeing in such rude ways. Like there are right and wrong answers in music appreciation! But then I remember — the internet lets people show how they really are, and many are rude and terrible.
At any rate, I don’t agree with every choice, but I appreciate them all. I think it’s fun to hear new things, even though I only like some of them. Lots of cool versions and reinterpretations of old favorites here. Thank you so much!
I have a suggestion for a cover not included for anyone looking to go beyond what is here. Sharon Van Etten did a gorgeous voice-and-piano rendition of “Drive All Night” for for The A.V. Club’s “Pioneering” series. At times it seems maybe her voice isn’t up to it (to be fair, it’s a single take performed live), but by the end there’s real passion in her cry. She really gets into it. I love her. It’s a really wonderful cover!