Originally released in 1962 by Ben E. King, the tune reached No. 2 on the R&B chart and No. 11 on the Hot 100 upon its initial release. Aretha Franklin later scored a hit with her own rendition of “Don’t Play That Song,” which peaked at No. 11 on the Hot 100 and No. 1 on the R&B chart in 1970.
The Boss’ rendition features a powerful backing band, complete with guitar, bass, drums, strings and an emphatic horn section. Soulful singers accompany Springsteen throughout the piece, the legendary rocker at times belting out his lines, while at other points delivering lyrics in a speak-song style of phrasing.
Watch Springsteen’s video for “Don’t Play That Song” below.
This is the third track released from Only the Strong Survive, arriving on the heels of previous singles “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” and “Nightshift.”
The album, which arrives Nov. 11, marks a notable departure for Springsteen. It’s the first time the Boss has ventured into soul tunes and is only the second time he’s dedicated an entire album to material written by other artists (the first was 2006’s We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions).
“I spent my working life with my voice at the service of my songs — confined by my arrangements, by my melodies, by my compositions, by my constructions,” Springsteen explained around the time Only the Strong Survive was announced. “My voice always came second, third or fourth to the expression of those elements. But this time, I decided to do something I had never done before: make some music that is centered around singing, around challenging my voice. Now in my own memoir, I give my voice a little short shrift by saying I didn’t think I had much of one. But once I started on this project, after listening to some of the things we cut, I thought, ‘My voice is badass! I’m 73 years old, I’m kicking ass. I’m a good old man!'”
Bruce Springsteen Albums Ranked
Because he spent so many of his formative years painstakingly crafting his albums, we don’t often think of Bruce Springsteen as a prolific artist. But he’s averaged an album nearly every other year throughout his career.