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"Hungry Heart"
Single by Bruce Springsteen
from the album The River
B-side "Held Up Without a Gun"
Released October 21, 1980 (1980-10-21)
Format 7" single
Recorded The Power Station, New York
June 1979
Genre Rock
Length 3:19
Label Columbia Records
Writer(s) Bruce Springsteen
Producer Jon Landau, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt
Bruce Springsteen singles chronology
"The Promised Land"
"Hungry Heart"
"Fade Away" (1981) (US)
"Sherry Darling" (1981) (UK)

"Hungry Heart" is a song written and performed by Bruce Springsteen on his fifth album, The River. It was released as the album's first single in 1980 and became Springsteen's first big hit of his own on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.



When Springsteen met Joey Ramone in Asbury Park, New Jersey, Ramone asked him to write a song for The Ramones. Springsteen composed "Hungry Heart" that night, but decided to keep it for himself on the advice of his producer and manager, Jon Landau. Previously, upbeat and catchy Springsteen songs such as "Because the Night" and "Fire" had been given away and become hits for others, and Landau was anxious that the trend did not continue.

The song is easy to assimilate on early hearings, as the verses and the choruses have the same underlying music. However, as with several of Springsteen's pieces, the song's lyrics don't quite match the mood of the music:

Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack!
I went out for a ride and I never went back.
Like a river that don't know where its flowing,
I took a wrong turn and I just kept going
Everybody's got a hungry heart
Everybody's got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody's got a hungry heart

The title is drawn from a line in Alfred, Lord Tennyson's famous poem "Ulysses": "...always roaming with a hungry heart...."

Springsteen's voice was slightly sped up on the recording, producing a higher-pitched vocal. (Bob Dylan had done the same thing on 1969's "Lay Lady Lay", as well as Dire Straits on 1978's "In The Gallery".) Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan of The Turtles sang backup. The mix of songwriting and production techniques was successful, and "Hungry Heart" reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1980. In the subsequent Rolling Stone Readers' Poll, "Hungry Heart" was voted Best Single for the year.

"Hungry Heart" was used on several movie soundtracks over the years; including the obscure 1982 Israeli film "Kvish L'Lo Motzah" (a.k.a. "Dead End Street", which was actually the very first motion picture ever to feature Springsteen music), the 1983 Tom Cruise hit movie Risky Business, the 1992 AIDS drama "Peter's Friends", and the 1998 Adam Sandler comedy "The Wedding Singer".

The single was not a hit in the United Kingdom when first released, reaching only #44 on the UK Singles Chart. It did better in 1995 when it was reissued in conjunction with his Greatest Hits album; this time, it reached #28. A video clip was filmed on July 9, 1995 at the tiny "Café Eckstein" in East Berlin, featuring German rock star Wolfgang Niedecken and his "Leopardefelleband", although neither are heard on the actual audio track, as this so-called "Berlin 95" version (which was also released on CD singles) just features Bruce's live vocals and audience noise laid over the song's original 1980 E Street Band studio recording.

Shortly before his murder in December 1980, John Lennon said he thought "Hungry Heart" was "a great record."

The "Everybody's Got A Hungry Heart" episode of Japanese anime series Battle B-Daman is named after the lyric in the song.

The aggregation of critics' lists at rated this song as the #38 song of 1980, as well as #341 of the 1980s and #1870 all time.[1] The song has also been listed as the #1 single of 1980 by Dave Marsh and Kevin Stein and as one of the 7500 most important songs from 1944 through 2000 by Bruce Pollock.[1][2] It was also listed as #625 on Marsh's list of the 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made.[3]

Track listing

  1. Hungry Heart — 3:19
  2. Held Up Without a Gun — 1:15

"Held Up Without a Gun" is a track from The River sessions that began a Springsteen tradition of using songs that did not appear on his albums as B-sides. A River Tour performance of it is included on The Essential Bruce Springsteen compilation album's optional disc. This was the only live performance of the song in a regular Springsteen concert (apart from rehearsals) until the song reappeared several times during the Magic tour.[4] The studio version has never been released on an album, and to this day also remains unavailable on the CD format.

The cover of the single sleeve shows The Empress Hotel, one of Asbury Park's fading landmarks of the time.

Live performance history

Springsteen crowd surfing as he and the E Street Band perform "Hungry Heart" during the final shows at Giants Stadium in October 2009

At the beginning of The River Tour, Springsteen and the E Street Band played the song as an instrumental for the first verse and chorus. During the November 20, 1980, show in Chicago's Rosemont Horizon, right after the single hit the Top 10, the audience spontaneously sang the lyrics back to the band during this intro. A tradition was thus born of Springsteen always letting the audience sing the first verse and chorus.

Such a performance from December 28, 1980 at Nassau Coliseum (with Volman and Kaylan guesting) is included on the Live/1975-85 box set, but the ritual became even stronger during the 1984-1985 Born in the U.S.A. Tour, when "Hungry Heart" was a featured selection early in the second set. Even in Japan, where not many fans knew the words, this was still one of the best-received songs of his performances.

"Hungry Heart" was a regular in Springsteen band concerts through the early 1990s, but beginning with the 1999-2000 E Street Band Reunion Tour, it has only been irregularly performed, exemplifying a later-era Springsteen practice of avoiding his most popular radio hits. When it is played, it is often with guest artists singing along, since it is one of Springsteen's easiest songs to perform.

Performances by others

Rod Stewart performed the song during his 1984 American tour, but was apparently confused by the "Brooocing" reaction of the audience and thought he was being booed.

The song has also been recorded by Jesse Malin, Minnie Driver, Mike Love, Aidan Moffat, Paul Young, and Lucy Wainwright Roche.

External links




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