It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City

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"It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City"
Song by Bruce Springsteen from the album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.
Released January 5, 1973
Recorded 1972
914 Sound Studios, Blauvelt, New York
Genre Rock
Length 3:13
Label Columbia Records
Writer Bruce Springsteen
Producer Mike Appel, Jim Cretecos
Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. track listing
"Spirit In The Night"
"It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City"

"It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City" is a song written and performed by Bruce Springsteen on his debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. in 1973. A 1975 live version can be found on the DVD of the Hammersmith Odeon concert that is included in the Born to Run (30th Anniversary Edition) and the Hammersmith Odeon London '75 CDs.[1][2] A 1978 live version is included in the Live/1975–85 set. The song has also been covered by David Bowie.[3] John Sayles included this song in a high school lunchroom scene of his movie Baby It's You.[4]

This is the song that impressed producer Mike Appel so much that he quit his job to become Springsteen's manager, even though Springsteen did not have a record contract yet.[5] This was also the first song Springsteen played at his audition at CBS Records for John Hammond, who eventually signed him to a record contract, on May 2, 1972.[5][6] The following day, Springsteen recorded "It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City" as part of a 12-song demo for Hammond.[5][6] The demo version of the song was released on Tracks in 1998. The version included on Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. was recorded during the summer of 1972 backed by future E-Street Band members David Sancious on piano, Vini Lopez on drums and Garry Tallent on bass.[7]

Lyrics and music[edit]

"It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City" is a fast-paced song. It is a solid rock 'n' roll song when played in concert.[8] Its tone is cocky and arrogant.[9] The lyrics contain an element of religious allegory as the singer boasts of his streetwise toughness. The song is about a young man growing up on the streets of a city, and who is trying to stay "good" and do what he believes is right. Unfortunately, "those gasoline boys sure talk gritty" and he is inexorably dragged into some very unsaintly activities. One of the more quoted lines is "The devil appeared like Jesus through the steam in the street/Showin' me a hand I knew even the cops couldn't beat/I felt his hot breath on my neck as I dove into the heat/It's so hard to be a saint when you're just a boy out on the street."


  • Bruce Springsteen - vocals, guitar
  • Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez - drums
  • Gary Tallent - bass
  • David Sancious - piano


  1. ^ "Born to Run (30th Anniversary Edition)". Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  2. ^ "Hammersmith Odeon, London '75". Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  3. ^ "Allmusic It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City". Retrieved 2012-08-23. 
  4. ^ Dave Marsh (1996). Glory Days. p. 296. ISBN 1-56025-101-8. 
  5. ^ a b c Rob Kirkpatrick (2007). The Words and Music of Bruce Springsteen. pp. 12–16. ISBN 0-275-98938-0. 
  6. ^ a b "The Demo Sessions". Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  7. ^ "Greetings from Asbury Park". Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  8. ^ Marsh, D. (1979). Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story. pp. 67–74. ISBN 0-440-10694-X. 
  9. ^ Patrick Humphries (1996). Bruce Springsteen. p. 7. ISBN 0-7119-5304-X. 

External links[edit]