Charting Bruce Springsteen's career from scrappy Dylanesque folksinger to "rock 'n' roll['s] future" to one of the biggest artists on the planet means sifting through a catalog of records that evolved almost every step of the way while still united by common lyrical and musical themes.

It was there from the start, on his 1973 debut album, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., and it was there as he began to build his legend two years later on the epochal Born to Run. It remained there through various ups (Born in the U.S.A.) and downs (Human Touch) and more ups (The Rising), as you'll see in our list of the Best Song From Every Bruce Springsteen Album.

The music sometimes changed – the twisted wordiness found on the debut gave way to more concise storytelling on albums like The River and Nebraska, and the early acoustic songs became full-fledged E Street Band rave-ups later on. So did his outlook. The restless characters who wanted nothing more than to escape their dead-end towns and jobs settled into more responsible adults on The River, even when those grown-up commitments stung (Springsteen's troubled marriage is all over 1987's Tunnel of Love).

He also grew into a more political songwriter over the years, as the idealistic young man of the '70s found a voice for his working-class heroes on albums like Born in the U.S.A., The Ghost of Tom Joad and Wrecking Ball. Most remarkably, through it all he remained one of rock's most essential and relevant artists, as you'll see in the below list of the Best Song From Every Bruce Springsteen Album.

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