See the Sweet Sixteen of Springsteen song covers — including your pick for No. 1
Updated: Mar 30, 2022
To paraphrase Mr. Springsteen, it was a long time comin' — but after compiling your suggestions for our list of 68 favorite covers of Springsteen songs, putting that group out to a vote, and compiling the responses, we have the Sweet Sixteen of Springsteen song covers: the 16 best interpretations of The Boss's work by other artists, as chosen by you.
If it looks like there are a few glaring omissions, that could be because we limited it to songs covered after Bruce released his own version, not songs he gave to other artists ("Because the Night," which he gifted to Patti Smith, probably being the most significant.) But that's why we did a separate poll for those — you can see how those songs fared at the bottom of this post.
And so, without further ado, here are the cover songs you picked as your faves, starting from the top. (And you'll also find most of them in a Spotify playlist below, natch.)
1) Blinded By The Light — Manfred Mann
The biggest hit is still apparently the favorite, odd pronunciation of "deuce" be darned.
2) Atlantic City — The Band
A very Band-y version that really feels like it could have been written for them.
3) Highway Patrolman — Johnny Cash
One of three entries on this list from The Man in Black, it's prime evidence that Springsteen's story-songs were ideal fodder for Cash's expressive baritone.
4) Drive All Night — Glen Hansard with Eddie Vedder and Jake Clemons
Just try not to get a little misty when Jake's sax solo kicks in on this fantastic 2013 interpretation of the epic "River" track.
5) Further On Up The Road — Johnny Cash
Johnny's late-career quaver was well suited for this "Rising" cut.
6) It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City — David Bowie
Bruce has cited Bowie as an early supporter, and this interpretation of the "Greetings" highlight, which Bowie recorded not long after that album's release, is nothing short of stunning.
7) My City of Ruins — Eddie Vedder
All we can say is, what a tribute. 👏 👏 👏
8) Johnny 99 — Johnny Cash
A third entry from Johnny, and a good choice given both the title and its hopeless, Cash-esque main character.
9) The Ghost of Tom Joad — Rage Against The Machine
We all know what Tom Morello and Bruce made of this song later on, but this initial cover by Morello and his group set the stage in its ferocity.
10) Wreck on the Highway — Nils Lofgren
Just so well-suited for Nils' sad, plaintive crooning.
11) Jackson Cage — John Wesley Harding
I will admit I never knew what some of the lyrics were to this song before I heard this haunting version. "Into a row of houses she just melts away" ... who knew?
12) Stolen Car — Patty Griffin
Speaking of haunting versions, Griffin really gets to the rotting underbelly of the couple's sad story in her rendition of this classic "River" track. (That's meant as a compliment.)
13) Racing in the Street — Emmylou Harris
You can make an argument for Harris as the preeminent interpreter of Springsteen's music, with six separate tracks making our initial list of favorite covers. She probably split her own votes somewhat, but this gorgeous live version justifiably made the sweet 16.
14) Across The Border — Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris, with Neil Young
Remember when we said the last track was gorgeous? Ditto this one.
15) Atlantic City — The Hold Steady
The only song to make this list twice, The Hold Steady's more rocking version of "Atlantic City" is decidedly different from The Band's, especially when the sax kicks in around the 1-minute mark.
16) Born in the USA — Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires
From the 2014 "Born in the USA" tribute album "Dead Man's Town," this sad, angry version of that disc's title track leaves no room for misinterpretation.
These just barely missed the Sweet 16: Last To Die by Pet Shop Boys; Tucson Train by Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul; Pink Cadillac by Natalie Cole; and 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) by The Hollies.
Let's face it — this was always a battle for second place. Patti Smith's most well known song, to which she added key lyrics after Bruce gave her his unfinished version, was No. 1 with a bullet. (Of course, Southside Johnny makes up for that with sheer volume.) Here's how the top 5 panned out.
1) Because the Night — Patti Smith
2) Light of Day — Joan Jett
3) Hearts of Stone — Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes
4) Fire — The Pointer Sisters
5) The Fever/Talk To Me (tie) — Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes
In the playlist below you'll find all of the above — regular covers and the giveaways — that are currently on Spotify. But if you'd prefer the massive original list (now including the giveaways also), you can still find that here.