The Meaning Behind the Passionate Song “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen

The New Jersey-born rocker Bruce Springsteen is known for the heart and soul he puts into his music and performances. And perhaps no song has more passion than his hit, “Born to Run.

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Below, we get into the origins of the song, the spirit of the rebel, and the love that inspired this timeless track.

[RELATED: How Bruce Springsteen Became a Cultural Icon—We Asked an Expert]

The Album

Released as the title song from Springsteen’s 1975 LP of the same name, the track was the first top-40 hit for “The Boss.” As far as where it came from, Springsteen has talked about waking up one morning in 1973 with the title in his head. As it was later fleshed out, the track turned into a love song for a woman named Wendy.


According to writer Charles Cross, who founded the fanzine dedicated to Bruce—Backstreets Magazine, in 1980—the thing that perhaps separated Springsteen from all the others, was his ability to create, invent, and reinvent rock music in front of a live audience during his multi-hour shows.

Coming from a blue-collar background, Springsteen constantly put in a hard day’s work onstage. He maintained his humility as he rose to stardom and his songs were firmly rooted in the populous.

“Born to Run” is an anthem for wanting to escape the weight and pressure of life. The signature line, Tramps like us, baby, we were born to run! conjures an image of the rebel with the wind at their back, the promise of freedom on the horizon. For those who work long, hard days in factories—the need to feel the thrill of yonder resonates deeply.

In the day we sweat it out on the streets
Of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through the mansions of glory
In suicide machines
Sprung from cages on Highway 9
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin’ out over the line
Oh, baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young
‘Cause tramps like us, baby, we were born to run


While the chorus rev’s the engines of fans, what makes this song timeless is its poetic lyrics. Springsteen channeled his inner Bard for this one, writing lyrics that are both easy to digest and satisfyingly transcendent. He sings full of passion:

Wendy, let me in, I wanna be your friend
I wanna guard your dreams and visions
Just wrap your legs ’round these velvet rims
And strap your hands ‘cross my engines
Together we could break this trap
We’ll run ’til we drop, baby, we’ll never go back
Oh, will you walk with me out on the wire?
‘Cause, baby, I’m just a scared and lonely rider
But I gotta know how it feels
I want to know if love is wild
Babe, I want to know if love is real

Live, Acoustic

Below, Springsteen plays the song stripped-down. Just him, his acoustic, and a harmonica. With a performance that reveals a quiet and more introspective version of the song, it’s not only moving, it proves that “Born to Run” stand’s on its own two feet and will do so for many years.

Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns

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