Steve Rapport // Getty ImagesBruce Springsteen performs at the 7th annual "Stand Up For Heroes" event at Madison Square Garden on November 6, 2013 in New York City.

Bruce Springsteen's biggest Billboard hits

Written by:
September 16, 2022
Jemal Countess // Getty Images

Bruce Springsteen's biggest Billboard hits

Twenty Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes, one Oscar, and one Tony for the hit "Springsteen on Broadway": This is just a small listing of the hardware Bruce Springsteen accumulated over the years; not bad for a kid born into a blue-collar family in Freehold, New Jersey.

While none of Springsteen's singles hit #1 on a Billboard list, Rolling Stone magazine lauded his brilliance, ranking him 23rd on its list of "Greatest Artists of All Time." He's definitely earned his nickname "the Boss."

Listening to Springsteen's music is a veritable revelation about the musician's life. Ahead of the Boss' 72nd birthday Sept. 23,  Stacker looked at the 26 songs from Springsteen that made Billboard's Hot 100 chart history and ranked the tracks by the number of weeks spent on the chart. Ties were broken by peak position.

In his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction speech in 1999, Springsteen reflected on the influence his parents had on his life—from his tumultuous relationship with his father to his mother understanding exactly why he needed a $60 Sunburst guitar. "My parents' experience forged my own," he said. "They shaped my politics, and they alerted me to what is at stake when you're born in the USA." And of the E Street Band—very much a part of his 50-plus-year career—Springsteen said, "Everybody wants to know how I feel about the band. Hell, I married one of 'em." That would be, of course, singer-songwriter and guitarist Patti Scialfa.

Keep reading to discover which Springsteen songs made for his biggest Billboard hits.

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#26. 'Devils & Dust'

- Debut date: April 16, 2005
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 1
- Peak position: #72
- Peak date: April 16, 2005

Bruce Springsteen hit the road with the "Devils & Dust" solo tour in 2005. Billboard Touring Awards proclaimed it the Top Small Venue Tour of 2005. Springsteen told Rolling Stone of the decision to make the tour solo, "Playing alone creates a sort of drama and intimacy for the audience: They know it's just them and just you." As for the title track, Springsteen wrote "Devils & Dust" in 2003 in response to the start of the Iraq War.

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#25. 'Working on a Dream'

- Debut date: Feb. 21, 2009
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 1
- Peak position: #95
- Peak date: Feb. 21, 2009

The title track from the "Working on a Dream" album is said to be inspired by Barack Obama being elected president of the United States in 2008, around the time of the album's release. Bruce Springsteen first performed the song at a 2008 Cleveland campaign stop for Obama. In January 2009, "Working on a Dream" resonated throughout Tampa, Florida's Raymond James Stadium during Springsteen's Super Bowl XLIII performance. The next year, the album received the Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Solo.

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#24. 'Girls In Their Summer Clothes'

- Debut date: Feb. 2, 2008
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 1
- Peak position: #95
- Peak date: Feb. 2, 2008

In a 2009 interview with the U.K.'s The Sunday Times, the Boss said he was inspired to write a song that emanated the feeling of "classic American summer." Thus "Girls In Their Summer Clothes" was born as a track on Springsteen's "Magic" album. When "Girls In Their Summer Clothes" won the 2009 Grammy for Best Rock Song, Springsteen told MTV News, "I didn't even know I was up for a Grammy!"

 

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#23. 'Tenth Avenue Freeze-out'

- Debut date: Jan. 24, 1976
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 3
- Peak position: #83
- Peak date: Feb. 7, 1976

A track from the "Born to Run" album, "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out" was the first song performed during Bruce Springsteen's 2009 Super Bowl halftime performance. In a blog post recounting that day, he wrote, "During 'Tenth Avenue' I tell the story of my band … and other things 'when the change was made uptown … '" Interpretations of the song say "Bad Scooter" refers to Springsteen, whereas "Big Man" is the E Street Band's saxophonist Clarence Clemons.

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#22. '57 Channels (and Nothin' On)'

- Debut date: June 20, 1992
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 6
- Peak position: #68
- Peak date: June 27, 1992

The track "57 Channels (and Nothin' On)" was featured on the "Human Touch" album. Springsteen played it during his first performance on NBC's "Saturday Night Live." The song was also featured in Springsteen's "In Concert/MTV Plugged" on Nov. 11, 1992.

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#21. 'Badlands'

- Debut date: Aug. 19, 1978
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 8
- Peak position: #42
- Peak date: Sept. 23, 1978

"Badlands" is the first track off Springsteen's fourth album, "Darkness on the Edge of Town," and the song he used to kick off performances on that tour. In his 2012 SXSW keynote, he talked about how the U.K.-based R&B band The Animals heavily influenced the sound behind "Badlands."

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#20. 'Fire'

- Debut date: Jan. 31, 1987
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 8
- Peak position: #46
- Peak date: Feb. 28, 1987

Hear the lyrics to "Fire," and the 1978 single from the Pointer Sisters might come to mind. The R&B trio hit #2 on Billboard's Hot 100 with this song, written by the Boss.

Springsteen had another singer in mind when he penned the song, however: Elvis. In Clinton Heylin's biography, "E Street Shuffle: The Glory Days of Bruce Springsteen," the author recounts Springsteen becoming inspired to write the song after seeing Elvis in concert in 1977. Springsteen put a demo together to mail the King's way, but Elvis died before it reached him. Springsteen gave the track to singer Robert Gordon instead; the Pointer Sisters recorded it the following year.

 

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#19. 'Prove It All Night'

- Debut date: June 10, 1978
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 9
- Peak position: #33
- Peak date: July 22, 1978

The ninth track on "Darkness on the Edge of Town," "Prove It All Night" was part of a celebration of sorts that came a full 31 years after the album was released.

That's when "Prove It All Night" became a centerpiece for a 2009 concert in Cleveland that was recorded as an album. Wailing on the saxophone for it was the Big Man Clarence Clemons. The performance marks one of Clemon's final concerts before his 2011 death.

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#18. 'Born to Run'

- Debut date: Sept. 20, 1975
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 11
- Peak position: #23
- Peak date: Nov. 1, 1975

Billboard described the title song from Springsteen's third studio album—and his first single ever released—as " … one of the best rock anthems to individual freedom ever created."

"Born to Run" was #21 on Rolling Stone magazine's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time," and The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame included it on its list of "500 Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll." The lyrics pay homage to the main highway running through Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, alluding to an escape to freedom by being "sprung from cages out on Highway 9."

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#17. 'The Rising'

- Debut date: Aug. 3, 2002
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 11
- Peak position: #52
- Peak date: Aug. 3, 2002

Written in reaction to the 9/11 attacks, "The Rising" tells the story of a firefighter ascending the stairs of the World Trade Center. The title song from Springsteen's 12th studio album, "The Rising" won Grammys in 2003 for Best Rock Song, Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, and Album of the Year. It was also the first studio album produced by Springsteen and the E Street Band in 18 years.

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#16. 'War'

- Debut date: Nov. 22, 1986
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 12
- Peak position: #8
- Peak date: Dec. 27, 1986

"War" was written for Motown in 1969 by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. Since then, various musicians have brought their voices to the antiwar lyrics, notably, The Temptations and, of course, Springsteen. His version would be aimed at the Ronald Reagan administration's Central American foreign policy. Springsteen sang "War" during several tours, including the 2003 "Rising Tour" in the early days of the Iraq War.

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#15. 'Fade Away'

- Debut date: Feb. 7, 1981
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 12
- Peak position: #20
- Peak date: March 14, 1981

When Rolling Stone magazine asked E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt about "Fade Away" being his favorite Bruce Springsteen song, he responded, "It's just one of those funny, lost little gems, you know?" "Fade Away," through which a man implores a lost lover not to toss him aside for another—"Well, now you say you've found another man who does things to you that I can't // And that no matter what I do, it's all over now"—debuted on the album "The River." 

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#14. 'I'm Goin' Down'

- Debut date: Sept. 7, 1985
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 13
- Peak position: #9
- Peak date: Oct. 26, 1985

A track from the "Born in the USA" album, "I'm Goin' Down" is known for its lyrics focusing on romantic frustration, as well as its rockabilly vibe. Songfacts declared "I'm Goin' Down" to be Bruce Springsteen's "most repetitive track" based on the 80 times the word "down" appears.

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#13. 'My Hometown'

- Debut date: Dec. 7, 1985
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 15
- Peak position: #6
- Peak date: Jan. 25, 1986

The seventh single from "Born in the USA," "My Hometown" conveys a mixture of Springsteen's father's pride in the family's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, but also speaks to racial strife and economic depression experienced by the town.

Bringing many of the issues to a head were the closings of mills within Freehold. A year after "My Hometown" was released, 3M closed its Freehold factory. Springsteen performed a benefit concert for its employees, addressing the crowd, "The marriage between a community and a company is a special thing that involves a special trust. What do you do after 10 years or 20 years, you wake up in the morning and see your livelihood sailing away from you, leaving you standing on the dock? What happens when the jobs go away and the people remain?"

Other acts that performed "My Hometown": U2, Tracy Chapman, and Neil Young.

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#12. 'One Step Up'

- Debut date: Feb. 27, 1988
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 15
- Peak position: #13
- Peak date: April 23, 1988

From the "Tunnel of Love" album, "One Step Up" is said to be an homage to the disintegration of Bruce Springsteen's marriage to Julianne Phillips. The couple would separate in April 1987, with Springsteen flying to Los Angeles, where he recorded "One Step Up" at A&M Records. Springsteen played all the instrumentals for the track, with E Street bandmate and his future wife Patti Scialfa singing background. Springsteen's and Phillips' divorce was finalized in March 1989.

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#11. 'Brilliant Disguise'

- Debut date: Oct. 3, 1987
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 16
- Peak position: #5
- Peak date: Nov. 21, 1987

The first single released off "Tunnel of Love," "Brilliant Disguise" also harkens back to Springsteen's and Julianne Phillips' failed union. As he did for "One Step Up," Springsteen played all the instruments in the recording. Where the magic happened: Thrill Hill East, Springsteen's home studio in Rumson, New Jersey.

Meiert Avis, director of the "Brilliant Disguise" video, would write about his approach to the story put forth through the song's lyrics, "I imagined watching the man as he wrote and sang the song for the first time to a lover. This was one of the great performers, doing an autopsy on both of the corpses in the relationship, with words as his scalpel."

 

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#10. 'Tunnel of Love'

- Debut date: Dec. 5, 1987
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 16
- Peak position: #9
- Peak date: Feb. 6, 1988

Upon first listen to "Tunnel of Love," one might immediately think of a carnival funhouse ride. And while that's the setting for the lyrics, soon enough, the metaphors provide the true meaning: "Then the lights go out and it's just the three of us, yeah/You, me and all that stuff we're so scared of/Gotta ride down baby into this tunnel of love." Retrospection on Bruce Springsteen's relationship with Julianne Phillips gets another look with "Tunnel of Love."

Of the album itself, a Rolling Stone article comments "'Tunnel of Love' focuses on the romantic dreams we're brought up with and the internal demons that stifle those dreams." The album won Best Rock Vocal Performance at the 1988 Grammy Awards.

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#9. 'Human Touch/Better Days'

- Debut date: March 21, 1992
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 16
- Peak position: #16
- Peak date: April 11, 1992

Another break-up Bruce Springsteen was dealing with in 1989 was the one with the E Street Band. The album "Human Touch" was another solo effort from Springsteen. At the guitar for the single "Human Touch/Better Days" was Randy Jackson of ABC's "American Idol" fame. Roy Bittan still played keyboard for this track, making him the only remaining member of the original E Street Band to play on this Springsteen song.

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#8. 'Born in the USA'

- Debut date: Nov. 10, 1984
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 17
- Peak position: #9
- Peak date: Jan. 19, 1985

Prominent on "Born in the USA" was Max Weinberg on drums. According to a Rolling Stone article, Bruce Springsteen would tell Weinberg that the drums on the song were vital as they sound "like confusion and bombs."

"Born in the USA" is about a Vietnam War veteran who returns home to an uncertain future. Though Springsteen was drafted for the Vietnam War, he failed the physical due to a concussion sustained in a motorcycle accident. In 1981, Springsteen played a benefit concert for Vietnam veterans. Once the benefit concert tour ended, Springsteen still had an interest in writing about the Vietnam veteran experience, beginning with "something just called 'Vietnam.'"

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#7. 'Glory Days'

- Debut date: June 1, 1985
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 18
- Peak position: #5
- Peak date: Aug. 3, 1985

Seven hit singles would spring forth from "Born in the USA," among them, "Glory Days." Again, Bruce Springsteen would hit on a vibe many people could relate to through the song. He would play "Glory Days" for David Letterman on the TV host's final show for NBC. Years later, Andra Day would sing "Glory Days" in the Pixar movie "Cars 3."

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#6. 'Hungry Heart'

- Debut date: Nov. 8, 1980
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 18
- Peak position: #5
- Peak date: Dec. 27, 1980

From the album "The River," the song "Hungry Heart" has a few backstories attached to it. One claims Bruce Springsteen wrote it for The Ramones, but was persuaded by producer John Landau to keep it for himself. The other is that the song was inspired by Lord Tennyson poem "Ulysses," which says, "For always roaming with a hungry heart." Both culminated in this early '80s hit.

"Hungry Heart" appeared in several films, including "Risky Business," "The Wedding Singer," and "The Perfect Storm."

 

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#5. 'Cover Me'

- Debut date: Aug. 11, 1984
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 18
- Peak position: #7
- Peak date: Oct. 20, 1984

"Cover Me" is yet another song producer John Landau convinced Bruce Springsteen to hang onto, even though the song was composed for another artist. Landau envisioned Donna Summer owning this track, but instead, Summer recorded the Springsteen song, "Protection." "Cover Me" did not remain homeless for long as it would appear on the wildly famous album "Born in the USA."

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#4. 'I'm on Fire'

- Debut date: Feb. 16, 1985
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 20
- Peak position: #6
- Peak date: April 13, 1985

"I'm on Fire" off the "Born in the USA" album remained a fan favorite, as did the song's sultry music video. Director John Sayles was behind the camera, with Bruce Springsteen in the starring role of a mechanic being seduced by the unseen owner of a Ford Thunderbird who leaves her keys with Springsteen—an invitation. "I'm on Fire" won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Male Video in 1985.

Rocker Jackson Browne would say in a Rolling Stone magazine interview, "This is one of his [Springsteen's] most intimate songs. It's about fundamental, deep-seated desire."

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#3. 'Streets of Philadelphia' (from 'Philadelphia')

- Debut date: Feb. 19, 1994
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 20
- Peak position: #9
- Peak date: April 23, 1994

Written for the film "Philadelphia," the "Streets of Philadelphia" won numerous awards—an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and four Grammys. The song, which appeared on the film's soundtrack, was also released as a single. It's on The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's list as one of "500 Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll." When Bruce Springsteen was honored as MusiCares' 2013 Person of the Year, Elton John performed a dramatic reading of "Streets of Philadelphia."

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#2. 'Dancing in the Dark'

- Debut date: May 26, 1984
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 21
- Peak position: #2
- Peak date: June 30, 1984

It's impossible to write about "Dancing in the Dark" and not mention Courteney Cox of NBC's "Friends" fame. In the "Dancing in the Dark" video, directed by Brian De Palma, Bruce Springsteen pulls a screaming fan from the crowd to come and dance onstage. That fan, who was a plant in the crowd: Courteney Cox. On Howard Stern's XM radio show, Cox recalled the experience: "Did you see my dance? It was pathetic. I'm not a bad dancer, but that was horrible. I was so nervous."

As for Springsteen, he would win his first Grammy with "Dancing in the Dark" as 1985's Best Rock Vocal Performance.

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#1. 'Secret Garden'

- Debut date: April 29, 1995
- Weeks on Hot 100 chart: 23
- Peak position: #19
- Peak date: May 24, 1997

Though "Secret Garden" was released in 1995, it made its big-screen debut the following year in the film "Jerry Maguire." Bruce Springsteen also played it in 1995 when appearing on "The Late Show with David Letterman."

A performance of the song that pulled on heartstrings occurred at a July 2013 concert in Leeds, England. As recounted by Rolling Stone magazine, Springsteen gave a shoutout to fans who steadfastly supported the band, following them from city to city. With that in mind, Springsteen announced "Secret Garden" saying, "Tonight this is for Annie and her guy. It's their request."

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