Going For A Song: ‘The River’

Bruce Springsteen – The River

I read something a few weeks ago, that if it hadn’t been for his manager Jon Landau, Bruce Springsteen would have given the song ‘Hungry Heart’ to The Ramones to record. Aside from being a nice piece of rock trivia this has got to be one of the great missed opportunities in music, hasn’t it?

I like Springsteen, have a few albums, but haven’t heard The River, the album ‘Hungry Heart’ is off. But one of my favourite Springsteen songs is ‘The River’, which is on the album as well. It’s a song that shows just how adept Springsteen became at writing those first-person narrative songs*. He was so good, that the craft necessary to do it could be taken for granted, resulting in some maybe assuming these type of songs are easy to write. I don’t think they are.

It’s important that here Springsteen was – as the article says – drawing on family he knew for the source material. The tact necessary to do this is maybe a clue to the sensitivity in the writing, that is as much part of Springsteen as is the type of masculinity which may be seen best to manifest itself in his album artwork. In any case it is this sensitivity that feeds into the ‘The River’, and is that which doesn’t allow it – or any of his other songs which have this perspective – to fall into machismo.

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* I don’t want to suggest he is no longer adept, but I’ve not listened to enough Springsteen to not use the past tense here.

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