The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #132: Rosalita by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (RS)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song and going until I reach Song . When you see the song title listed as something like: Song (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song#132: Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) by Bruce Springsteen.

There is a classic Saturday Night Live sketch starring Eddie Murphy called, “The Hot Tub Party”. In that sketch, Murphy channels his very best James Brown; grunting and squawking in time with the beat of the Funk band playing live beside him, dipping his toe in the bubbling hot tub water dozens of times before actually going in, dropping his robe, only to have an attendant drape it again over his shoulders and, on and on, it goes. The sketch lasts only a few minutes but the tension that gets built up by the constant teasing of Murphy before getting into the water makes, “The Hot Tub Party” sketch one of the most memorable SNL sketch of all-time. What really helps make that sketch so awesome is that James Brown actually acted that way in concert. He was known for stretching out his songs past the point when most people thought they would end. He was notorious for feigning exhaustion and “needing to be helped off stage” only to revive himself at the last second, throwing off the robe draped over his shoulders, returning to centre stage, filled with renewed fury and off he would go again. There were many in James Brown’s audiences who thought that his style of showmanship was the essence of Rock n’ Roll/Funk/Blues and Soul. One of those people who lapped up James Brown’s style was, obviously, Eddie Murphy. A second person was a young man from The Jersey Shore named Bruce Springsteen.

It is hard to believe that there was a time when Bruce Springsteen was an unknown singer backed by an unknown band. But, it is true. In the early 1970s, the world knew as much as Bruce Springsteen as they did about his Jersey peer, Southside Johnny and his Ashbury Jukes. Bruce Springsteen was just a teenager with dreams of someday making it in the music business. But, as we know, he was no ordinary teenage boy, thrashing away in his parent’s garage or basement. Right from his earliest days, Bruce Springsteen was a writer. As a young man, he wrote songs that read like plays. When he sought to become an actual peformer, his idea was to turn his shows into theatre. At that time, there was no one with a greater sense of theatricality than James Brown, the Godfather of Funk. So, Springsteen married his play-like songs with James Brown’s showmanship style and, as a result, a new music star was about to be born. By the time Bruce Springsteen released his second album, “The Wild, the Innocent and The E-Street Shuffle”, he had written a song that read like a memoire and clocked in at almost seven minutes long. That song was “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” and this is the story of that song and why it became the one that Springsteen used to close out the regular portion of his shows, leading into the encore segment of the concert.

“Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” is, essentially, a song about a randy teenage boy, filled with energy and angst, hoping to lure the girl of his dreams away from the protective grasp of her parent’s home. Needless to say, in lesser hands, this sort of song can go awry and become hung up on the sexual longing of being a teenage boy. But, with Springsteen’s poet’s touch, “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” becomes a wider chronicle of how teenage boys see the world. It is about our pent up energy and strength, coupled with the expectations of society that fuel so many of our ambitions. There is some question of how autobiographical the song actually is. There are some who say that there was a girl with a similar sounding name whose parents disapproved of Springsteen’s musical lifestyle and dreams and forbade her to date him. There are others who suggest that Springsteen based the song title on the church near where he grew up, called “Rosa de Lima”, with the song lyrics telling a similar tale of “you shouldn’t have given up on me so soon because look at what I’ve become” swagger. Whatever the case, “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” has become a statement song for Bruce Springsteen and the members of his band. It may be about a girl but, in truth, it is about something broader such as having a full and total belief in yourself and your vision for the future and using that as fuel to fulfill your dreams and attain what you want in life. Some critics say that “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” is one of the songs that best exemplifies “The American Dream” and, as such, it has resonated with audiences from the first time most people have heard it.

“Rosalita” was one of the very first songs to introduce the world to the fury and energy with which Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band played live. The song was never released as a single and only became known via word of mouth, as well as, by being played on FM radio stations shows where fans could call in requests and have the DJ play their request on air. Eventually, a live version of “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” was filmed and released to the public. It was at that time that most people say the magnificence of the band for the first time. It certainly was the national debut for the Big Man, himself, Clarence Clemons, who has an excellent sax solo in this song. Overall, the song, “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)”, along with “Born To Run”, announced that a new way of playing Rock n’ Roll had arrived. Springsteen was no mere Pop star. He was Shakespearean in calibre, with all of the Funk of his hero, James Brown, fuelling his live shows. The future of Rock n’ Roll had, indeed, arrived.

Here is that future come to life in the form of an epic rendition of “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” from the album, “The Wild, The Innocent and the E-Street Shuffle” by Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Bryce Springsteen and the E Street Band, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

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