In the liner notes to his Greatest Hits album, Bruce Springsteen (Great American Things, April 22, 2009) wrote this about “Born to Run”: “My shot at the title. A 24 yr. old kid aimin’ at ‘The greatest rock ‘n roll record ever.'” If he didn’t succeed, he came amazingly close.
This song, and the album of the same name, were evidence of Springsteen’s perfectionism at work. He recorded it over a period of months in 1974, experimented with several different arrangements, and laid down eleven guitar tracks. It’s indisputably a BIG song – loud, layered, important, and epic.
And it came at the right time for Springsteen’s career. His first two albums (Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ and The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle) were well received, but not commercially successful. He knew that the next album had to make an impact, and this anthem delivered in a big way.
Rolling Stone named it the number 21 song on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. And the Recording Industry Association of America placed “Born to Run” as number 135 in its Songs of the Century. Ironically, the New Jersey legislature chose it as New Jersey’s “Unofficial Youth Anthem” – which tickled Springsteen because he said, “It’s about leaving New Jersey.”