Showbiz Cheat Sheet
Bette Midler’s ‘The E Street Shuffle’ Cover More Heartfelt Than Bruce Springsteen’s
By Josh Lezmi
June 4, 2020
Mister D: Dont even try to deny it you BossHeads
Though “Born in the USA” may be one of Bruce Springsteen’s most famous songs — the hallmark of his career and the anthem played at almost every July 4 party (twice), it is not the only artist’s nostalgic tune.
Springsteen often relies on recounting the past, painting a personal narrative within a historical, far-reaching lens. Thus, on the 36th anniversary of Springsteen’s seventh studio album, it’s important to draw attention to the singer/songwriter’s other works deserving of praise. “The E Street Shuffle” off of The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle came as part of Springsteen’s 2nd studio album.
“The E Street Shuffle” talks about girls and boys in the summer heat, flirting, and partying, and getting into trouble; they’re all just doing “The E Street Shuffle.” The song paints a picture, relying on detailed imagery to transplant listeners to the time and the place, and the memories of a town in its heyday.
Springsteen’s delivery is strong, for he is an entertainer by definition. However, another musician — known for her contagious personality and heartwrenching ballads — breathes more life into the number than the lyrics alone feel capable of conjuring. As for the artist who gives The Boss a run for his money: The Divine Miss M.
Comparing Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The E Street Shuffle’ to Bette Midler’s rendition
Springsteen’s “E Street Shuffle” is fun and groovy — it begs you to move your head and dance while singing along to the catchy, quick-paced lyrics. The music comes in fast from the get-go (as if designed with outdoor barbecues in mind).
On the other hand, Midler’s cover starts slow and reflective. The music is not groovy, but almost melancholic — nostalgic from a place of loss and an acknowledgment of change rather than a revisiting of former glory.
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If focusing on Mider’s famous live performance from the Divine Madness tour, her voice even comes in breathy, almost strained, to signify and impart the summer heat felt on those days when the kids did shuffle.
Bette Midler interweaves ‘Leader of the Pack,’ and it makes all the difference
Famous for combining songs into memorable mash-ups, Midler gives fans Springsteen and the Shangri-Las at once, transitioning out of “E Street Shuffle” and into “Leader of the Pack” early in the number. And, as for the woman who falls for the man, it’s Midler herself. Thus, her story takes on a more personal, individualizes recounting. She yearns to hold onto this man, she yearns to find love amid the shuffle, the heat, and the madness.
She falls for the leader of the pack, and then they must go their separate ways, and as she closes the scrapbook on the story, she returns to singing the “E Street Shuffle,” and returns to the illustration of a town and time witnessed from afar — the hot summer days, the girls in skin-tight pants, and the boys who turned out the lights on a Friday night. She knows them all as a bystander, but remembers the time within a more specific frame of reference (“Leader of the Pack”).
Midler returns to what started it all, after injecting a love story into the center of a more broad depiction. You feel the pain, the memory, the regrets, the love. The depth of Springsteen’s lyrics come forward, as Midler collapses to the stage, rises to her feet, and begs for mental clarity and a heart at peace.