Behind The Song: “Because The Night” by Patti Smith & Bruce Springsteen

It’s the only song that Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen ever wrote together, and it’s a classic. It was her first hit, from her 1978 album Easter. Its origins are among those most often distorted when people talk of famous songs. Which is why we’re here, to set the record straight.

The surest, though not always fail-safe way of getting that truth is by going directly to the source. That source being Patti Smith, during an extensive interview for American Songwriter in 2010. But this account has been verified by Springsteen, and also by Jimmy Iovine, who produced Patti’s album.

Iovine, who also produced landmark albums for Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks and others before becoming one of the industry’s most powerful executives, recognized that Patti was a genius. But even geniuses need hits. In the same exact way he encouraged Tom Petty to write a song for Stevie Nicks they could do as a duet (and which led to “Stop Dragging My Heart Around,” the very hit Iovine had wanted), he encouraged Bruce to write a song for Patti.

Bruce was busy trying to make the album that became Darkness On The Edge of Town. He’d written the bones of “Because The Night;” he had the structure, with words for the chorus. The verse lyrics had yet to be written when Iovine heard it and asked if he could let Patti work on it.

Bruce felt he had enough love songs already, and so agreed. Iovine, as is well known, is a persuasive guy. Relentless might be the better word.

So he took a cassette tape of the track with Bruce on the chorus, and got it to Patti, who tells her side of this story in the following account.

She recorded it for her 1978 album Easter, and it became her first hit. She and Bruce performed it live a few times, He first released a live version of it, and played it often in shows, especially after Patti’s record became a hit. But it wasn’t until The Promise in 2010 that he released his own version.  

But he was always vocal about his love for Patti’s contribution. “[The song] would have never seen the light of day,” Springsteen said, “much less been the song that it is if it wasn’t for Patti working on it. So thank you Patti!”

Patti, who was a beloved though underground artist who emerged on the power of this song, always has been grateful in turn.

“I always wanted to write a song that the whole world loved,”
she said. This was the song. |

PATTI SMITH
: I got a tape of it from Jimmy Iovine. Jimmy gave it to me and Bruce had given it to him . Everything was completely produced, and the chorus was done. Bruce needed words for the verses, which were mumbled.

I listened to it I sat up with it all night writing a song for Fred, who was supposed to call me from Detroit. and I’m the kind of girl who waits for the call.

I listened to it over and over, trying to distract myself from waiting for Fred, and I was so agitated and so antsy. I hoped it could distract me from waiting for Fred. That’s why the lyrics say, “Have I doubt when I’m alone/ love is a ring, the telephone.”

I’ve always wanted to write a song that everyone could love. That’s the one thing that I feel that I wanted to achieve by writing a song. That when you hear it, everybody is happy. When we’re in Italy and we break into “Because The Night,” and there are 20,000 people singing it, it just brings me to tears. So I know that people might experience a certain amount of joy. 

That’s why I might write poetry for myself or for the gods of poetry. But I write a song for the people.

“Because The Night,” the first incarnation, by Patti Smith on `Easter, ‘ 1978.
“Because The Night,” the Springsteen version, first recorded in 1977 but unreleased until “The Promise,” 2010.
Patti & Bruce together, Tribeca Film Festival, New York City, 2010.
U2, Patti & Bruce at Rock Hall

“Because The Night”
Patti Smith-Bruce Springsteen

Take me now, baby, here as I am
Pull me close, try and understand
Desire is hunger is the fire I breathe
Love is a banquet on which we feed

Come on now try and understand
The way I feel when I’m in your hands
Take my hand come undercover
They can’t hurt you now
Can’t hurt you now, can’t hurt you now

Because the night belongs to lovers
Because the night belongs to lust
Because the night belongs to lovers
Because the night belongs to us

Have I doubt when I’m alone
Love is a ring, the telephone
Love is an angel disguised as lust
Here in our bed until the morning comes

Come and try to understand
The way i feel in your command
Take my hand as the sun descends
They can’t touch you now
They can’t touch you now
They can’t touch you now

Because the night belongs to lovers
Because the night belongs to lust
Because the night belongs to lovers
Because the night belongs to us


With love we sleep
With doubt the vicious circle
Turn and burns
Without you I cannot live
Forgive, the yearning burning
I believe it’s time, too real to feel
So touch me now, touch me now, touch me now

Because the night belongs to lovers
Because the night belongs to lust
Because the night belongs to lovers
Because the night belongs to us

Because tonight there are two lovers
If we believe in the night we trust
Because tonight belongs to lovers
Because the night belongs to lust
Because tonight belongs to lovers
Because the night belongs to lust



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