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Chart Rewind: In 1984, Bruce Springsteen Was ‘Dancing’ to His Biggest Hit

Told by manager Jon Landau that his 1984 LP "Born in the U.S.A." lacked a single, The Boss balked, then penned his biggest smash.

Bruce Springsteen wrote 70 songs for what would become his seventh studio album, Born in the U.S.A. But as the track list came together, his manager Jon Landau felt the record was missing one key track: an obvious first single.

Springsteen, who was 34 at the time, was not happy to hear this. “I’ve written 70 songs,” he replied, according to Dave Marsh’s biography Glory Days: The Bruce Springsteen Story. “If you want another, you write it.”

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Anger can be a great motivator and, the following day, Springsteen returned to the studio with “Dancing in the Dark.” It was the final track added to Born in the U.S.A., and the hit single that Landau sought. On June 30, 1984, the song spent its first of four weeks at its No. 2 peak on the Billboard Hot 100, Springsteen’s highest showing on the chart as an artist. (Manfred Mann’s version of the Springsteen-penned “Blinded by the Light” hit No. 1 in 1977.)

“Dancing in the Dark” represented a sonic evolution for Springsteen. With its dark lyrics of existential angst (“Man I ain’t getting nowhere / I’m just living in a dump like this”) offset by a swirling, ’80s-appropriate synthesizer hook, the single became his first hit on the Dance Club Songs chart, where it reached No. 7. (There was even an extended 12-inch remix by producer Arthur Baker.)

“Dancing” became the first of a record-tying seven top 10 Hot 100 singles released from Born in the U.S.A. (The feat was first achieved earlier in 1984 by Michael Jackson’s Thriller and matched  in 1991 by Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814.) The album topped the Billboard 200 for seven weeks and has been certified 15-times platinum by the RIAA.

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The video for the song, directed by Brian De Palma (Scarface), became the first to feature Springsteen in the flesh and introduced actress Courteney Cox, who would famously go on to star in Friends.

Springsteen, married to E Street Band member Patti Scialfa since 1991, and a father of three, revived Springsteen on Broadway June 26 at New York’s St. James Theatre. The one-man show, which premiered in 2017, is set to run through Sept. 4. Springsteen also recently teased a new album, after releasing Western Stars in 2019 and Letter to You in 2020.