Bruce Springsteen Wiki
The River.jpg
Released October 17, 1980
Recorded March 1979 - May 1980
The Power Station, New York
Genre Rock, heartland rock
Length 83:47
Label Columbia Records Logo.png
Producer Jon Landau, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt
Darkness on the Edge of Town
The River
Singles from The River
"Hungry Heart"
Released: October 21, 1980
"Fade Away"
Released: January 22, 1981
"I Wanna Marry You"
Released: 1981
"Sherry Darling"
Released: 1981 (Europe only)
"The River"
Released: May 1981 (Europe only)
"Cadillac Ranch"
Released: 1981 (UK and France only)
"Point Blank"
Released: 1981 (Europe only)
"The Ties That Bind"
Released: 1981 (South Africa only)

The River is the fifth studio album (a double album) by Bruce Springsteen, released on October 17, 1980. Rolling Stone ranked it at #253 on their list of the greatest albums of all time.

On December 4, 2015, a box set entitled The Ties That Bind: The River Collection was released to celebrate the 35th anniversary of The River. There was also a tour to promote the box set. Springsteen performed The River in its entirety during most of the shows.


The sources of The River began with tracks from his previous album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, many which had been featured on the 1978 tour, such as "Drive All Night", a long interpolation within "Backstreets." Other tracks included "Independence Day", "Point Blank", "The Ties That Bind", "Bring On the Night", "Ramrod", and "Sherry Darling". Recording of new songs started April 3, 1979 ("Roulette"), and continued to September 2 ("From Small Things Big Things Come"). While Bob Clearmountain mixed the ten tracks chosen for "The Ties That Bind",  Springsteen joined the Musicians United for Safe Energy for three concerts at Madison Square Garden, September 21-23, 1979. A high point was the world premiere of "The River", recently completed on August 29. 

On October 4, the ten mixed tracks were dubbed to two half-track reel-to-reel tapes at the Power Station, and sent for mastering. On October 15, the finished album was delivered to CBS. The track sequences were:

Side One: 1. "The Ties That Bind" 2. "Cindy" 3. "Hungry Heart" 4. "Stolen Car" 5. "Be True".

Side Two: 1. "The River" 2. "You Can Look (But Don't Touch)" 3. "The Price You Pay" 4. "I Wanna Marry You" 5. "Loose Ends".

However, Springsteen cancelled these plans in October, electing to continue recording. Sessions finally wrapped up in March 1980, but dubbing and mixing continued into May. Fimally, twenty-five tracks plus several b-sides were sent to Chuck Plotkin at Clover Studios, Los Angeles, for mixing. Plotkin's Chief Engineer, Toby Scott, did most of the hands-on work, mixing all tracks except "Hungry Heart", which had previously been mixed by Clearmountain so well, that it was left as it was. The double-album was finally released October 17, 1980.

"[The River] was a record that was sort of the gateway to a lot of my future writing. It was a record we made after Darkness on the Edge of Town. It was a record made during a recession - hard times in the States. It's title song I wrote for my brother-in-law and sister Ginny. My brother-in-law was in the construction industry, lost his job and had to struggle very hard back in the late 70s, like so many people are doing today. It was a record where I first started to tackle men and women and families and marriage. There were certain songs on it that led to complete records later on: "The River" sort of went to the writing on Nebraska, "Stolen Car" went to the writing on Tunnel of Love. Originally it was a single record. I handed it in with just one record and I took it back because I didn't feel it was big enough. I wanted to capture the themes I had been writing about on Darkness. I wanted to keep those characters with me and at the same time added music that made our live shows so much fun and joy for our audience. So in the end, we're gonna take you down to The River tonight".|Bruce Springsteen|Concert, 8th November 2009

Springsteen added darker material after he'd written the title track. Indeed, The River became noted for mixing the frivolous with the solemn. This was intentional, and in contrast to Darkness, for as Springsteen said during an interview, "Rock and roll has always been this joy, this certain happiness that is in its way the most beautiful thing in life. But rock is also about hardness and coldness and being alone ... I finally got to the place where I realized life had paradoxes, a lot of them, and you've got to live with them."

"Hungry Heart" was Springsteen's first U.S. pop singles chart top ten hit single, reaching #5. (Springsteen had not intended the song to be for himself, having initially written it for The Ramones; but manager/producer Jon Landau convinced Springsteen to keep it.) The album hit number one on the U.S. pop albums chart, a first for Springsteen, and sold 1.6 million copies in the U.S. between its release and Christmas. Sales faltered with "Fade Away", which only reached #20.

The album was followed by a lengthy tour of North America and Western Europe during 1980 and 1981. Several of the album's up-tempo rockers became concert staples for decades to come, including "Cadillac Ranch", "Ramrod", and "Out in the Street", as did "Two Hearts" (with Steven Van Zandt acting as the second 'heart').

"Stolen Car" and "Wreck on the Highway", the closing tracks on the original LP's sides three and four, bore quiet, haunted arrangements that presaged much of the musical direction Springsteen would take in the future.

"Point Blank" took its title from a 1967 movie starring Lee Marvin.

Since its release, The River has been certified quintuple platinum by the RIAA in the U.S., making it one of Springsteen's best-selling albums and his highest certified studio release after Born in the U.S.A. and Born to Run. In 2003, the album was ranked number 250 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

"Drive All Night" and "Stolen Car" played a key role in setting the tone of the 1997 film Cop Land.

"Drive All Night" and "Out in the Street" were used in the 2007 film Reign Over Me, and the album was mentioned multiple times throughout the movie.

On November 8, 2009, near the end of the Working on a Dream Tour, Springsteen and the E Street Band performed The River in its entirety for one time only at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Track listing[]

All songs written by Bruce Springsteen.

Side one[]

  1. "The Ties That Bind" – 3:34
  2. "Sherry Darling" – 4:03
  3. "Jackson Cage" – 3:04
  4. "Two Hearts" – 2:45
  5. "Independence Day" – 4:50

Side two[]

  1. "Hungry Heart" – 3:19
  2. "Out In The Street" – 4:17
  3. "Crush on You" – 3:10
  4. "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)" – 2:37
  5. "I Wanna Marry You" – 3:30
  6. "The River" – 5:01

Side three[]

  1. "Point Blank" – 6:06
  2. "Cadillac Ranch" – 3:03
  3. "I'm a Rocker" – 3:36
  4. "Fade Away" – 4:46
  5. "Stolen Car" – 3:54

Side four[]

  1. "Ramrod" – 4:05
  2. "The Price You Pay" – 5:29
  3. "Drive All Night" – 8:33
  4. "Wreck on the Highway" – 3:54

Chart Rankings[]

Peak positions[]

Chart Position
Australian Kent Music Report


Canadian Albums Chart


Dutch Albums Chart


French SNEP Albums Chart 3
Japanese Oricon LP Chart


New Zealand Albums Chart


Norwegian VG-lista Albums Chart


Swedish Albums Chart


UK Albums Chart 2
U.S. Billboard 200 1
West German Media Control Albums Chart



Year-end charts[]

Chart (1980) Position
Australian Albums Chart 63
Canadian Albums Chart


French Albums Chart 4
UK Albums Chart[10] 57
Chart (1981) Position
Canadian Albums Chart[11] 24
UK Albums Chart 45
U.S. Billboard Year-End[12] 10


  1. Kent, David. "Australian Chart Book 1970-1992". Australian Chart Book. St Ives, New South Wales, N.S.W., 1993. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. Accessed 2009-03-24.
  2. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 2012-04-04
  3. Bruce Springsteen - The River. Dutch charts. Retrieved 2012-04-04.
  4. "Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970-2005". Oricon Entertainment. Roppongi, Tokyo, 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9. Accessed 2011-10-29.
  5. "Bruce Springsteen - The River". Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Accessed 2012-04-04.
  6. Bruce Springsteen - The River. Accessed 2012-04-04.
  7. Bruce Springsteen - The River. Accessed 2012-04-04.
  8. Bruce Springsteen – The River.Media Control. Accessed 2011-10-31.
  9. Top 100 Albums. RPM. 1980-12-20. Accessed 2012-04-04.
  10. Complete UK Year-End Album Charts. Accessed 2011-10-03.
  11. Top 100 Albums of 1981, RPM, 1981-12-26. Accessed 2012-04-04.
  12. Top Pop Albums of 1981. Billboard. 1981-12-31. Accessed 2012-04-04.