Where to start? Not only is “Atlantic City” one of the best-known and most-loved of Springsteen’s songs, it’s also perhaps his most covered. It’s the second track from 1982’s Nebraska, that monumental achievement which was originally recorded on a four-track Portastudio entirely by Bruce as a set of demos (some of which wouldn’t see the full-band, studio treatment until Born in the U.S.A.). One of the most epic lo-fi productions in modern music-making, Nebraska included such oft-interpreted staples as “Mansion on the Hill,” “Johnny 99,” “Highway Patrolman,” and “State Trooper.”
“Atlantic City” is quintessential Bruce, its narrator trapped in impossible circumstances but rising toward some bit of deliverance, however fleeting. Like so many of Springsteen’s best, it’s essentially a folk song, and its clarity and openness have offered countless artists a sturdy platform for interpretation. Here’s just a few of the many out there.
Ben Harper (2012)
Justin Townes Earle (2012)
Mumford & Sons, with friends (2013)
Greensky Bluegrass (2015)
Sophie Strauss (2016)