Bruce Springsteen’s first top-ten hit from his 1980 album, The River was originally written with The Ramones in mind, but Jon Landau, Bruce’s manager and producer, persuaded him to keep it for himself. The result was a #5 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and a #44 hit in Great Britain.
The E Street Band creates a virtual “Wall of Sound” for what seems to be a nostalgic rock song. Its upbeat tempo belies the story the lyrics are telling, about a father and husband who has an affair. The Boss’s vocals were sped up just a little bit, giving him a higher pitch than usual. A pair of Turtles, Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, pitched in on background vocals.
“Hungry Heart” has been a popular pick for inclusion on soundtracks for films such as Kvish L’Lo Motzah, Peter’s Friends, Risky Business, and The Wedding Singer. It was re-released in 1995 when his greatest-hits package hit the shelves, and re-appeared on the U.K. chart at #28. A video was also made on 9th July 1995 at East Berlin’s Café Eckstein in tandem with Wolfgang Niedecken and the Leopardefelleband.
John Lennon was a fan of the song and a number of other artists have performed it, including Minnie Driver, Mike Love, Jesse Malin, Aidan Moffat, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Rod Stewart, and Paul Young. Rod was taken aback when he sang it during a tour of the U.S. in 1984 and thought the audience was booing him when they were actually chanting “Bruce”.
By the time The River tour was launched in 1980, the audience already had the song memorized and it has become customary for Bruce to just let the crowd take the lead on vocals on the first half of the song. It ceased to make the set list as often in the new millennium, as Bruce took to the curious practice of leaving out his most popular songs.
It appears on the aforementioned Springsteen albums as well as an EP that features the original version of the song and a live version, plus live cuts of “Murder Incorporated” and “Thunder Road” and a remake of “Streets of Philadelphia” with the E Street Band.
Bruce Springsteen recordings
Columbia 11-11391 ZSS 167548