Bruce Springsteen Reveals He Scrapped an "Entire Record" Ahead of 'Only the Strong Survive'

"It's hard to sing somebody else's songs, and get them to sound authentic," he says of his journey to create his new covers album

BY Allie GregoryPublished Nov 11, 2022

Bruce Springsteen's soul covers album Only the Strong Survive is out today through Columbia Records, and the Boss recently sat down in London to discuss the record's inspirations, having fun with other artists' songs, his collaborators and more.

In conversation with interviewer Edith Bowman on Thursday (November 10), Springsteen spoke about the impetus of the record:

Initially, it was really hard. I was picking material and I'm going, "It's hard to sing somebody else's songs, and get them to sound authentic and it's coming out of you." So I made an entire record that I threw out, and it'll show up in different places, and there were some good things on it but didn't feel quite right. So I came across this "Do I Love You," the Frank Wilson, Motown rarity, and the States, I guess, no one had heard it. And I want to try that. And so my producer, Ron Aniello, created the track and the track was really good, really strong. I said, "Well, if I can get up near Frank Wilson's range, I'm going to take a swing at it." And we cut that, that felt great. I said well, maybe I'll orient myself towards soul music, because it's how I grew up, and all my great mentors were soul men that came, Sam Moore and, of course, James Brown, Smokey Robinson as a writer. I mean, just so many. And the great singers, David Ruffin, Levi Stubbs, all masters. They were all my masters and I said well, let me try and sing some of this material.

Springsteen would go on to rework dozens of songs — 40 in total, 15 of which made the final cut — covering the music of Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Temptations, the Commodores, the Walker Brothers, Jackie Shane, Jimmy Ruffin and, of course, Jerry Buttler, whose 1968 song "Only the Strong Survive" lends its title to the album.

"I've been getting a lot better at picking them, but initially it was the trial and error of: 'What can I sing well?' So that was the process, but at the end of the day," Springsteen explained, "I think the main thing the record is it's joyful, and a lot of fun, and tips my hat, and is a tribute to, like I say, all my mentors and masters, and all those great records and those great productions."

You can listen to the album in full and watch a video of his band performing "Turn Back the Hands of Time" below. Be sure to tune in to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon Monday (November 14) through Wednesday (November 16) and on November 24 to see Springsteen perform live. 

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