The classic soul songs that Bruce Springsteen covers on his new album

At 73, decades at the heart of one of rock’s most storied careers, Bruce Springsteen doesn’t need to experiment. But he’s made it a point to push himself — showcasing his vocals above all else — on his upcoming album of soulful covers, Only the strong survive.

“I decided to do something that I had never done before: make music centered on the singing, on the challenge of my voice,” he said in a YouTube video announcing the record, which will be released on November 11. “Now in my own memoir, I give my voice a bit of a hard time saying I didn’t think I had a lot. But once I started this project, after listening to some of the things we have cut off, I thought, ‘My voice is badass!'”

Springsteen will test that premise on 15 tracks, tackling classics from artists like Aretha Franklin, Four Tops, the Temptations and the Commodores, among others. As an introduction to the project, here is a quick overview of each track.

“Only the Fittest Survive”, Jerry Butler (1968)

Jerry Butler, the original lead singer of R&B group The Impressions, recorded this gently upbeat, string-accompanied tune for his 1968 LP, The ice man is coming. Co-written by iconic Philly soul duo Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, “Only the Strong Survive” has become one of the singer’s signature tracks, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and inspiring other cover songs. Elvis Presley, country singer Skeeter Davis and jazz-fusion guitarist Larry Carlton.

“Soul Days”, Dobie Gray (2001)

Dobie Gray is best known for his string of hits in the 60s and 70s, including his biggest single, 1973’s “Drift Away.” The upbeat “Soul Days” is the title track from one of his later albums, a 2001 project featuring mostly covers. And it’s a throwback in every way, with Gray singing over nostalgic horns about his love of music and cruising in his Chevy.

“Nightshift”, the Commodores (1985)

Commodores drummer Walter Orange, who previously performed the band’s 1977 hit “Brick House,” takes over the lead on this groovy, reflective track. Co-written by versatile pros Dennis Lambert and Franne Golde, the 1985 ballad — which peaked at No. 3 on the Hot 100 — is essentially a tribute to two of soul’s great singers, Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson, who died on last year. .

“Do I Love You (Indeed, I Love You)”, Frank Wilson (1965)

During the height of Motown’s success in the 60s and 70s, Frank Wilson became one of the label’s chief songwriters and producers, making tracks for stars like the Supremes, Gaye and Stevie Wonder. At first, he also recorded this one-track, “Tears of a Clown” type track for Motown subsidiary Soul – but only a small number of 45 demos were pressed, and the rest were destroyed. (At least two copies are said to have survived, making this one of the most sought after vinyl rarities in existence.)

“The Sun Shall Shine No More”, Frankie Valli (1965) / The Walker Brothers (1966)

This radiant orchestral ballad, co-written by Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio, was originally a Frankie Valli solo single. The original version was a relative commercial flop – it took another year and a sweet blue-eyed soulful makeover from pop trio the Walker Brothers, to give the track its moment. With a faster tempo and more dramatic vocal delivery, their 1966 cover topped the UK charts and reached No. 13 on the Hot 100 – cementing the tune as a staple and, decades later, leading to covers of Cher. and Keane.

“Turn Up the Hands of Time”, Tyrone Davis (1970)

With “Turn Back the Hands of Time”, Tyrone Davis channeled loneliness and regret into one of the sweetest and most romantic soul hits of his time. Co-written by Jack Daniels and Bonnie Thompson, the song topped Billboard’s R&B charts and reached No. 3 on the Hot 100, becoming one of his signature singles (along with 1968’s “Can I Change My Mind” and ” Turning Point” from 1975).

“When She Was My Daughter”, The Four Peaks (1981)

This harmonica-laden single propelled the former Motown giants into the Top 20, giving them their biggest hit in eight years. Co-written by Larry Gottlieb (who went on to write tracks for Blue Oyster Cult and Kenny Rogers, among others) and Marc Blatte, “When She Was My Girl” marked the end of the band’s mainstream commercial era, even winning a Grammy nomination. for Best R&B Song.

“Hey, Western Union Man”, Jerry Butler (1968)

Like “Only the Strong Survive,” this swaggering single was co-written by hit-makers Gamble and Huff. Butler’s story of an urgent telegram (“Send a candy box too, and maybe some flowers”) is backed by a luxurious arrangement, built on funky drums and royal strings. It reached No. 16 on the Hot 100 and quickly became a classic – Diana Ross and the Supremes even covered it the following year for their album. Let the sun in.

“I wish it would rain”, the temptations (1967)

The Temptations originally released “I Wish It Would Rain” in 1967 on Motown’s Gordy imprint. It’s a heartbreaking song about a man who finds out his wife was cheating on him. All he wants is to cry, and he desperately hopes for rain so the drops will cloud his tears, because “everyone knows a man ain’t supposed to cry“‘I Wish It Would Rain’ peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the R&B chart, and it was subsequently covered by the Faces, Gladys Knight and the Pips and Aretha Franklin.

“Don’t Play That Song”, Ben E. King (1962)

Ben E. King released “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” as the title track of his 1962 album Don’t play this song! Written by Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun and King’s wife, Betty Nelson, “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” peaked at No. 2 on the R&B chart and No. 11 of the Hot 100. Aretha Franklin took the track even higher when she released a cover on her 1970 album spirit in the darkagain sending it to No. 11 on the Hot 100 and No. 1 on the R&B chart for five weeks.

“Any Other Way”, William Bell (1962)

William Bell originally released “Any Other Way” on Stax Records in 1962. It failed to create a chart sensation, peaking at No. 131 on the Hot 100. Singer Chuck Jackson had slightly more success with his 1963 cover of the song., which reached No. 81 on the Hot 100 and No. 47 on the R&B chart.

“I forgot to be your lover”, William Bell (1968)

William Bell scored a Top 10 hit on the R&B charts with his 1968 single “I Forgot to Be Your Lover,” which also peaked at No. 45 on the Hot 100. These days, however, listeners may be most familiar with the cover of the song by Billy Idol, which appeared in 1986 Smile boost under the name “To Be a Lover”. Idol reinvented Bell’s mournful soul ballad into an upbeat new wave track, full of peppy rock ‘n’ roll piano and his raspy Elvis-esque growl. The facelift paid off, as “To Be a Lover” soared to No. 6 on the Hot 100, giving the punk rocker his second Top 10 hit in the United States.

“7 Dark Rooms”, Four Tops (1967)

Four Tops released “7 Rooms of Gloom” as a single on Motown Records in 1967. Propelled by the fiery, angsty vocals and propulsive drumming of Levi Stubbs, the heart-pounding soul-rocker reached No. 14 on the Hot 100 and the No. 10 on the R&B chart. Nearly two decades later, Pat Benatar gave the song an arena-rock makeover for his sixth LP, 1985. Seven the hard way.

“What Happens to Broken Hearts”, Jimmy Ruffin (1966)

Jimmy Ruffin scored a Top 10 hit on the Hot 100 (#7) and the R&B chart (#6) with the lovelorn 1966 soul ballad “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”. Songwriters William Weatherspoon, Paul Riser and James Dean are both poignant and unfiltered in their descriptions of consuming heartache: “Every day the heartaches get a little stronger / I can’t take this pain any longer / I walk in the shadows, looking for light / Cold and lonely, no comfort in sight’80s British pop star Paul Young covered the song for 1991’s Grilled green tomatoes soundtrack, scoring a #1 adult contemporary hit.

“One Day We’ll Be Together”, Johnny and Jackey (1961)

Johnny Bristol and Jackey Beavers wrote “One Day We’ll Be Together” with Harvey Fuqua; the first two released the song as Johnny & Jackey in 1961 for the Tri-Phi label. The song achieved some regional success, but took on new life after Motown purchased Tri-Phi and Diana Ross & the Supremes released their version in 1969. Coverage topped the Hot 100 in late December 1969, scoring the last No. 1 hit of the decade and the last Supremes song before Ross left the band to embark on a solo career.

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