The inclusion of “Hungry Heart” on this list gave me a little bit of internal tumult. By adding it, was I trying to puff up my Springsteen bona fides? Or my rock bona fides? Was my intention to include it based on the nostalgia of it being the first Springsteen song I was aware of? The prospect of writing about “Hungry Heart” when I wasn’t so sure that it was a worthy entry was weighing on me (not, like, major life decision weight, but…relative to this list). So, considering all of this, I decided to do the only thing it made sense to do–I listened to it.
You can probably figure out what my ultimate decision was if you’re reading this.
“Hungry Heart” is anthemic-which is fairly par for the course when it comes to Springsteen’s first decade or so of stardom (Born To Run through Born In The U.S.A.) It’s also got a killer hook, awesome harmonies (provided by Flo & Eddie of The Turtles), and a musical buoyancy that makes it sound perfect on the radio, blasting out of car windows, or booming on the beach boardwalk. Like some of the best radio tunes, it juxtaposes that buoyancy with a not-exactly happy lyric. But who notices that when that chorus hits?
According to the song’s Wikipedia entry, “Hungry Heart” was originally written for The Ramones. While Joey and crew would’ve done a fine job with it, I’m glad Bruce’s manager Jon Landau convinced The Boss to keep it for himself. That decision certainly paid off when “Hungry Heart” became Springsteen’s first(!) top ten hit in early ’81.
This video (which I’m watching for the first time as I write this) is pretty interesting. It combines a new vocal from Bruce with the original instrumental background from 1980. Weird.