Thunder Road (4:48)

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From Greatest Hits and 131 other releases

“Thunder Road” is a song written and performed by Bruce Springsteen, and the opening track on his 1975 breakthrough album Born to Run. It is ranked as one of Springsteen’s greatest songs, and often appears on lists of the top rock songs of all time.

The lyrics to “Thunder Road” describe a young woman named Mary, her boyfriend, their hopeless lives and their “one last chance to make it real.” Thematically, it reads as a nostalgic companion piece to “Born to Run”.

Musically, the song opens with a quiet piano and harmonica introduction, meant, as Springsteen said years later in the Wings For Wheels documentary, as a welcoming to both the track and the album, a signifier that something was about to happen. Eschewing a traditional verse-and-chorus structure, the song’s arrangement gradually ramps up in instrumentation, tempo and intensity. The title phrase is not used until the middle section of the song, and then is not used again. Finally, after the closing line there is a saxophone-and-piano duet in the instrumental coda.

In this song, Springsteen mentions Roy Orbison “singing for the lonely” on the radio. Orbison, one of whose best-known songs is “Only the Lonely,” was a huge influence on Springsteen.

The song’s title comes from the Robert Mitchum film Thunder Road. Springsteen declared that he was somehow inspired from the movie even if, as he says, “I never saw the movie, I only saw the poster in the lobby of the theater.”

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