Over four decades, Bruce Springsteen has never shied away from playing a cover song here and there. During the massive Wrecking Ball world tour, though, The Boss challenged his band and concertgoers, claiming on stage that it was impossible to stump the E Street Band. To prove it, he would pluck signs from fans in the general admission pit that requested cover songs.
On many occasions, Springsteen would choose a song that the E Street Band had never played together. Many were obscure – on a three-year tour across the entire globe, you're bound to get some weird requests. But the band never panicked, and they'd work out the cover on stage right in front of everyone in attendance. After figuring out the melody and the key, the group launched into whatever cover Springsteen had selected – and if they were ever stumped, we don't know about it.
The Boss recently dropped his 18th studio album, High Hopes, and it features three covers on it. To celebrate the release, we picked 10 of our favorite cover songs that Bruce and the band have done to date. Oh, and make sure you check out some old-school photos of Springsteen too!
The 70-year-old plus folk classic has been covered countless times by Springsteen and the E Street Band, dating back to the early days of his career. This particular performance of "This Land Is Your Land" took place in 2012 in Austin, TX during SXSW and features Joe Ely, Arcade Fire, Alejandro Escovedo, Tom Morello, The Low Anthem and Garland Jeffreys.
The rock and roll pioneer's track may be best-known for its inclusion in the cult classic film Pulp Fiction. Bruce Springsteen is a teacher, though, and he gave a lecture in rock and roll's roots in November 2013 in Germany. He and the E Street Band put it together on the spot – you can actually watch Springsteen figure out what key the song is in before getting into the cover.
This isn't a pure cover, maybe, since Sir Paul McCartney joined the E Street Band on stage, but it's pretty awesome to see Springsteen & Co. playing a Beatles tune. This was at Hard Rock Calling – a festival at which many special Springsteen performances have happened – in London's Hyde Park in 2012.
London Calling became the title of Springsteen's one millionth live concert release, a DVD that highlights a different performance at Hard Rock Calling in Hyde Park. Springsteen loves playing overseas – often his shows are even longer in Europe than they are in North America – and the 2010 DVD documents the E Street Band's headlining performance at that festival in 2009. The set starts out with a cover of the title song from The Clash's seminal punk album – and while the video above isn't taken from that DVD, we had to choose this version because Tom Morello does ridiculous things with his guitar.
Springsteen's output in the 2000s has been eclectic, to say the least. His wildest curveball was a full album dedicated to folk legend Pete Seeger. Performing with the 13-piece Seeger Sessions Band, Springsteen's only full covers album consists of 13 tracks made popular by the 94-year-old Seeger. The record was dubbed We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, and above is a stripped-down take on the title track as part of a 2011 memorial concert in Oslo, Norway.
Sting turned 60 years old in 2011 and it was a huge deal. There was a benefit concert in New York City to help fight poverty featuring performances by Sting himself, along with Springsteen, Lady Gaga, Billy Joel and others. The Boss busted out an awesome acoustic cover of "Fields of Gold" that night.
The mutual admiration between Springsteen and Cash has been fairly well documented. The Arkansas-born country singer has actually covered The Boss before, most famously doing a stripped-down take of "I'm On Fire," and Springsteen returned the favor in November 2009 during a show in Tennessee. The video above doesn't have great visual quality, but it was the best we found in terms of audio. Springsteen said he and the E Street Band had never played "Ring of Fire" before launching into it, and it was only played at this stop on the tour.
Featured on his new LP, High Hopes, "Dream Baby Dream" made its introduction in the latter stages of Springsteen's Wrecking Ball tour. The song, originally penned by synth-punk act Suicide, was set to the video above as a thank-you for fans who attended the massive world tour.
The Wrecking Ball tour, as we've said, was a cover-heavy time for the E Street Band. Eddie Floyd's "Raise Your Hand" was a popular one, and we know Springsteen has been covering it since at least 1988.
So, we're cheating a little bit here. This is The Gaslight Anthem playing a song by The Gaslight Anthem, and Bruce Springsteen happens to come on stage. So even though it's technically not a cover, these two awesome New Jersey acts sharing the stage is so cool that we had to include it. Gaslight's sophomore LP, The '59 Sound, takes on a well-documented Springsteen influence – frontman Brian Fallon's lyrics often reference Springsteen songs – and Fallon said that Bruce performing the album's title track with them was a dream come true.