Wreck on the Highway

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"Wreck on the Highway"
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
"Drive All Night"
"Wreck on the Highway"

"Wreck on the Highway" is a song written and performed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. It was originally released as the final track on his fifth album, The River. The version released on The River was recorded at The Power Station in New York in March–April 1980.[1]

A melancholic song with a false ending, "Wreck on the Highway" features prominent organ and acoustic guitar parts. The lyrics describe a man who witnesses a hit-and-run auto accident on a rainy, isolated highway, and is subsequently haunted by the vision and unable to sleep.[2] It is directly inspired by Roy Acuff's country song of the same name and similar theme from the 1940s,[2] which is a cover version of the 1938 recorded song, "I Didn't Hear Nobody Pray", by the Dixon Brothers.[3] While Springsteen's song has elements of a country arrangement, its music is more haunted and less sentimental.[2]

Along with the title track, "Independence Day" and "Point Blank", it is one of the verse-chorus songs on The River that was essentially a short story or character sketch.[4] "Wreck on the Highway" and a few other songs on The River, such as the title track and "Stolen Car", mark a new direction in Bruce Springsteen's songwriting: these ballads imbued with a sense of hopelessness anticipate his next album, Nebraska,[5] as well as a turn towards pessimism in his overall artistic and personal world-view.[2] Springsteen himself has noted that "Wreck on the Highway" is one of the songs reflecting a shift in his songwriting style, linking The River to Nebraska.[6]

A slow-tempo song, "Wreck on the Highway" has not been particularly common in concert, with about 100 performances in Bruce Springsteen concerts through 2008. Nearly all of those performances occurred during the 1980–1981 River Tour.[7] The song was revived occasionally for electric piano performances on the 2005 solo Devils & Dust Tour.[8]

In the UK, it was released as the B-side of the single "Cadillac Ranch."[9]

"Wreck on the Highway" was the last song on the cassette version of Nebraska, but was not included in subsequent CD versions of that album.


  1. ^ Brucebase, On The Tracks: The River
  2. ^ a b c d Marsh, Dave (1987). Glory Days: Bruce Springsteen in the 1980s. Pantheon Books. pp. 95–96. ISBN 0-394-54668-7. 
  3. ^ Richard Carlin, Country Music, p. 108
  4. ^ George-Warren, H., Romanowski, P. & Pareles, J. (2001). The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll. Touchstone. p. 931. ISBN 0-7432-0120-5. 
  5. ^ "The River". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-06-25. 
  6. ^ Graff, Gary (2005). The Ties That Bind: Bruce Springsteen A to E to Z. p. 255. ISBN 1578591570. 
  7. ^ The Bruce Springsteen Setlist Page
  8. ^ Backstreets.com: 2005 Setlists
  9. ^ "Cadillac Ranch". dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved 2011-10-11. 

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