A list of the most influential artists in history chosen by country stars themselves, another honoree is revealed each week on CMT Hot 20 Countdown .
A New Jersey native who gave the world songs like “Born to Run,” “Glory Days” and “Born in the U.S.A,” Springsteen became known for poetic rock lyrics about working-class America and enthusiastic live performances.
“I think Bruce Springsteen is an unstoppable freight train of heartland, American music,” Frankie Ballard said. “Bruce Springsteen was put here to make American music — to make his music and to push it as hard as he could and to grab as many hearts as he could and pull ’em along with him. He’s just one of those people you meet in life that you know what they’re here to do. And you’re either comin’ with me, or you’re not. Bruce Springsteen’s one of those guys.”
“To me, his voice is America,” said Nettles. “I think he is able to capture something on a rock side that Johnny Cash was able to capture on a country side. He is able to tap into something that is middle-America, hardworking rebellion. Where hard work becomes almost a revolution, if you will, and I love that. It’s about the sweat of the brow and … what is the salt of this country. He is really able to capture that.”
“I just don’t think there’s a better songwriter alive,” Cash agreed. “His landscape of what he writes about is so beautiful and so inclusive. He doesn’t just write about love. He writes about family, about poverty, about social issues without ever sounding like he’s preaching.”
Bentley had a similar point of view.
“He really draws upon where he came from, where his people came from, that part of the world, the working class and the down-trodden, and he’s their voice,” Bentley said. “You’d say Merle Haggard‘s the poet of the common man in country music, I’d say Bruce Springsteen’s the poet of the common man in rock music.”
The other component of Springsteen’s influence on country stars seems to be the intensity he puts into his live concerts. It’s not unusual for the legendary performer to be onstage for three or four hours, going at full speed the whole time.
“I think his influence for me has been more about his live performances,” Urban admitted. “That kind of ferocity and passion and commitment and dedication to always coming out and needing to make sure everybody gets connected and elevated and lifted and giving everything onstage, that’s the thing that’s always inspired me so much.
“Bruce has such a passion for it, and it’s only gotten stronger further into his career. And that doesn’t happen with everybody. … I love the fact that Bruce always has this attitude of ‘God, I gotta come out and do this and be worthy of this and make this really count and matter at every show.’ It’s extraordinary.”
Steve Earle says Springsteen is the template for all modern performers.
“Bruce was the guy that kind of figured out that a singer-songwriter … at that moment in history was gonna have to form a rock ‘n’ roll band, and he did it,” Earle said. “I don’t think there’s any argument about this. He’s the greatest performer — and I’m talking about Elvis Presley, James Brown, whoever. I think Bruce Springsteen is the combination of all that and the greatest live performer that rock ‘n’ roll — or pop music of any sort — ever produced.”
Check out the rest of the CMT All-Time Top 40: Artists Choice list, and find out who will be announced each Saturday at 11 a.m. ET/PT on CMT Hot 20 Countdown.