Tougher Than The Rest: 100 Best Bruce Springsteen Songs”
June Skinner Sawyers
Omnibus Press (softcover, 286 pages, $17.95)
One doesn?t need to read an appraisal of Bruce Springsteen?s finest songs to be reminded of the fact that he?s one of the most gifted talents rock has ever produced, but these beautifully rendered and heartfelt observations make you appreciate his body of work all the more.
Of course, what constitutes the best Springsteen songs is all a matter of personal opinion. But author June Skinner Sawyers does more than just praise her favorite Springsteen songs. She also discusses the inspiration behind them and sheds light on the real-life experiences that informed them, often utilizing previously published quotes from Springsteen himself.
Moving from album to album, Sawyers appears to have been less than impressed with Springsteen?s 1973 debut Greetings From Asbury Park and follow-up The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, choosing just four and two tracks, respectively. She does, however, detail Springsteen?s progression from the stream-of-consciousness lyrical style of his debut (abandoned after too many Dylan comparisons) to the less-is-more approach of his latter day recordings, where he became, writes Sawyers, ?a minimalist of the finest order.?
Sawyers does a fine job of bringing new clarity to some of these songs, i.e., the volcanic fury of ?Adam Raised A Cain,? which some dismiss as ?an angry diatribe.? She sees it as ?one of Springsteen?s most optimistic songs,? an affirmation of how we can rewrite our lives.
She also attempts to explain how a song with a meaning as plain as the tale of the disillusioned Vietnam vet in ?Born In The U.S.A.? could ever have been so widely misinterpreted, surmising that ?each individual brought to it their own personal history, their own political point of view.?
Sawyers? personal favorite Springsteen album, 1982?s bleak Nebraska, finds her excluding just one track (?Used Cars?) while 1992?s critically maligned Human Touch rates just three tracks worthy of mention.
The author goes beyond 2005?s Devils & Dust to cover live and greatest-hits packages as well. This overwhelmingly positive book touches on the recurring lyrical theme of Springsteen?s work, namely his attempt to find meaning in life, as Sawyers points out, gives these songs ?their remarkable strength and durability.?