Springsteen reconvenes the E Street Band, including both Nils Lofgren and Steve Van Zandt, at the Hit Factory in NYC to record new tracks for his first Greatest Hits effort. For Clarence Clemons, who was most shocked by the band’s break-up, “standing in front of the microphone playing with the E Street Band was the best present I ever got in my life.” The band spends Clemons’s January 11 birthday in the studio, recording together for the first time in nearly ten years. Ernie Fritz’s feature-length documentary, Blood Brothers, captures the studio reunion, as well as the Big Man’s cake.
Springsteen wins the Best Original Song Academy Award for “Streets of Philadelphia,” from Jonathan Demme’s film Philadelphia, becoming the first rock ’n roll artist to win an Oscar in this category. “This is the first song I ever wrote for a motion picture, so I guess it’s all downhill from here,” Bruce jokes in his acceptance speech. Propelled by a hip-hop rhythm that makes good on the promise of post-E Street Band experimentation, the song spends 15 weeks in the Top 40, the longest stay since “Dancing in the Dark,” nearly ten years prior.
Following the Tunnel of Love Express Tour, Bruce and the E Street Band head out to more far-flung locales on the Amnesty International Human Rights Now! Tour. The six-week worldwide jaunt begins on this night in London, soon bringing Springsteen and the E Streeters (along with Sting, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman, and Youssou N’Dour) to Greece, India, South Africa, and Central and South America.
Springsteen’s studio follow-up to Born in the U.S.A. ships double platinum. It’s a profound song cycle dominated by what Springsteen will call his “men and women songs.” Richard Harrington reviews Tunnel of Love for the Washington Post: “It’s not that Springsteen is the first writer to address the confusions of the heart…but putting out such an introspective and intimate collection on the heels of the hard-charging Born in the U.S.A. and the heroically structured Live set is an intriguing move. It contains some of Springsteen’s most personal work and could very well provide the demythologizing he must crave.”
The best-selling album of 1985 in the U.S.A. and Springsteen’s most successful album ever, producing a record-tying string of seven Top 10 hits. Rolling Stone faithfully defined the album’s spirit, calling Springsteen the “Voice of the Decade” “Like Nebraska, Born in the U.S.A. was about people who come to realize that life turns out harder, more hurtful, more close-fisted than they might have expected. But in contrast to Nebraska’s killers and losers, Born in the U.S.A.’s characters hold back the night as best they can, whether it’s by singing, laughing, dancing, yearning, reminiscing or entering into desperate love affairs. There was something celebratory about how these people face their hardships. It’s as if Springsteen were saying that life is made to endure and that we all make peace with private suffering and shared sorrow as best we can.” The title track is often misinterpreted as a patriotic anthem. The album’s cover, photographed by Annie Leibovitz, became an iconic image of the era.