Bruce Springsteen is unmatched in many aspects and plays in another league. Even many of our heroes who fill stadiums, and whom we idolize so much, can’t even touch what the Boss does on the boards. Three-and-a-half-hour concerts, constant set changes in which only two songs are repeated, excessive charisma, an anthological band… The only thing that can squeak us are some fairly inconsequential latest studio albums, but when he goes on stage anything can happen, everything can sound and happiness spreads.
In commemoration of several of Bruce Springsteen’s missed opportunities, here’s a take a glance at five songs he penned or recorded for himself and the E Street Band in the 1970s and ’80s that went on to become larger smashes for other musicians.
“Spirit in the Night” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
Springsteen first released the song on his debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, New Jersey. “Spirit in the Night” didn’t chart until British musicians Manfred Mann’s Earth Band set their sights on it. Manfred Mann’s version of the track, included on the band’s 1975 record Nightingales and Bombers, reached at No. 40 on the Top 40 and became the first of tunes Manfred Mann would adapt by Springsteen that made the charts.
‘Blinded by the Light’ – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
The managers of the Boss were somewhat concerned because it was not normal that the album Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ (his first work) from 1973 was not a brilliant success and on the other hand the versions that other artists made of Springsteen reached the number 1 in the American lists. Manfred Mann achieved this peak in his career by covering the one from New Jersey. The artist tells us that he spent days working hard on the cover and that the basis of the song and its arrangements were more than complex. Curiously, Manfred was never satisfied with the final result, but when he saw himself at the top of the list, things changed. It is a composition that is advancing and is gaining in complexity and arrangements with that mythical keyboard riff and that chorus that is burned into your head. Another issue is already the lyrics… If anyone has any ideas, help would be appreciated. Add that Manfred changed more than one line and that it is Bruce’s only number 1.
“Fire” by the Pointer Sisters
The narrative behind “Fire” is a tragic one because Bruce Springsteen composed the piece for Elvis Presley, who died before he can even ever hear it. Springsteen penned the tune after witnessing Elvis Presley play on May 28, 1977, at the Spectrum in Philadelphia.
“I sent [Elvis] a demo of it,” said Springsteen, “but he died before it arrived.”
The Pointer Sisters covered the piece, which was first recorded and then removed from Darkness on the Edge of Town, and it went to No. 2 on the charts.
“Light of Day” by The Barbusters (Joan Jett and the Blackhearts)
In a strange twist of destiny, Bruce Springsteen shared the track “Light of Day,” which he had initially written and recorded for his 1983 album Born in the U.S.A., with director Paul Schrader for the 1987 movie soundtrack Light of Day. The track, which was played in the movie by the fictional band The Barbusters, who included Joan Jett and Michael J. Fox, peaked at No. 33 on the Billboard Hot 100. (Joan Jett and the Blackhearts).
“Pink Cadillac” by Natalie Cole
“Pink Cadillac,” which was first made available in 1984 as the B-side of “Dancing in the Dark,” did receive some airplay, was included in Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. tour set list, and peaked at No. 27 on the Billboard Top Tracks chart. Despite the fact that Springsteen first rejected the notion of Bette Midler performing the song, Natalie Cole eventually got hold and made it a Top 10 single in 1988. Her R&B pop rendition of “Pink Cadillac,” which was included on Cole’s 1987 record Everlasting and got two Grammy nominations, reached number one in the U.S. and the U.K. Billboard U.S. Dance Club Songs chart and No. 5 on the Hot 100, respectively, where it peaked.