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Professor Womack Reviews Springsteen’s “Letter to You”

November 1, 2020

One of Springsteen’s most inspired choices on “Letter to You” was the inclusion of a trio of his earliest songs, “If I Was the Priest,” “Janey Needs a Shooter,” and “Song for Orphans.” Likely composed in the days before he had a record contract — and certainly prior to the production of his debut album “Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ” (1973) — these tunes are mindful of Springsteen’s nascent days as a composer, when he often worked with a rhyming dictionary by his side.

With the E Street Band roaring into life behind these songs, Springsteen’s early compositions act like a time-capsule — especially “Janey Needs a Shooter,” brimming with the youthful energy and character sketches of “Blinded by the Light” and “Jungleland.” At the same time, recording the songs nearly 50 years after their original inspiration finds Springsteen lending the nuance and sagacity of his age to the flights of fancy that he imagined during his early twenties.

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