Stolen Car (Bruce Springsteen Song)

"Stolen Car"
Song by Bruce Springsteen from the album The River
Released October 1980
Recorded January 1980 at The Power Station in New York
Genre Rock
Length 3:54
Label Columbia Records
Writer Bruce Springsteen
Producer Jon Landau, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt

The River (disc 2) track listing
"Fade Away"
"Stolen Car"

"Stolen Car" is a song written and performed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. It was originally released on his fifth album, The River. The version released on The River was recorded at The Power Station in New York in January 1980.[1]


"Stolen Car", along with a few other songs on The River including the title track and "Wreck on the Highway", mark a new direction in Bruce Springsteen's songwriting. These ballads, imbued with a sense of hopelessness, foreshadow his next album, Nebraska.[2] Like "The River", "Stolen Car" is an inner-directed, psychological song that deals with a failing marriage.[3][4] The protagonist of "Stolen Car" is driven by his loneliness to car theft, hoping to get caught but fearing to just disappear.[5] Essentially, he wants to get arrested just to prove he exists.[3] Alternatively, "driving a stolen car" can be viewed as a metaphor for living in a false, failed marriage where "getting caught" would require admitting this failure to himself, friends and family. The fear of disappearing into the darkness is really the fear of not "getting caught" and instead spending the rest of his life living a lie, leaving nothing real behind.

The recording uses minimal backing, with soft piano and synthesizer punctuated by tympani-like drums.[5] Springsteen's biographer Dave Marsh wrote that the recording fades away "without a nuance of reluctance. There is nothing more here—just a waste of life and a man brave or stupid enough to watch it trickle away."[5] Bruce Springsteen himself has noted that "Stolen Car" is one of the songs reflecting a shift in his songwriting style, linking The River to Nebraska.[6] He has also stated that the protagonist was the character whose progress he would be following on the Tunnel of Love album, and that he served as the archetype for the male role in future songs Springsteen wrote about men and women.[3]

"Stolen Car" and another song from The River, "Drive All Night", played a key role in setting the tone of the 1997 film Cop Land.[7]

A slow moving song, "Stolen Car" has not been particularly common in concert, with 54 performances in Bruce Springsteen concerts through 2008, with most of those performances having occurred during the 1980–1981 River Tour.[8]

The aggregation of critics' lists at did not place this song in its list of the top 3000 songs of all time, but rated it as one of the 1980 songs "bubbling under" the top 3000.[9] The song has also been listed as one of the all time great songs in Toby Creswell's "1001 songs" and as one of the 7500 most important songs from 1944 through 2000 by Bruce Pollock.[3][9]

Alternate version

An alternate version of the song exists that was released on the album Tracks. This version, sometimes referred to as the "Son you may kiss the bride" version of the song,[10] was recorded at The Power Station in July 1979.[11] This version was originally intended to be released on a single album that was to be released in 1979 and called The Ties That Bind.[12][13] This album was eventually scrapped and expanded to become the double album The River. In this process, "Stolen Car" was rerecorded in the version released on The River.

The version of the song on Tracks has a different, less haunting, instrumentation and a somewhat quicker pace than The River version. But the main difference is the lyrics. The Tracks version includes three additional verses. In the final verse, the song's protagonist dreams of his wedding day and the joy and hope he felt.. Even in the dream, however, as he kisses his bride at the end of the ceremony he is returned to his lonely and depressing reality. The lyrics of this version also include river imagery used in some other songs on The River, including the title track and "Hungry Heart".

Other artists

A cover version of "Stolen Car" was recorded by Patty Griffin for her 2002 album, 1000 Kisses.[14] Another cover version was also recorded by Elliott Murphy.[15] The British band The Manhattan Love Suicides also did a cover. A cover by Owen was included on the Japanese edition of At Home With Owen.[16]


External links

  • Lyrics & Audio clips from

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.