Handwritten lyrics

Barren land into me
Hungry faces in my dreams
Got a rifle slung over his brown shoulder
Only fifteen and a veteran soldier

Blood thirty crys pierce the night
Killing children is it right
And is it for freedom that they fight
Or the will to live and the fear to die

Body's sweatin' out all the inborn hate
Live for that moment in the shade
Or to get out of the tarred sun
Bodies I know droppin' one by one

Thousands come one and all
Hear the sound of the battle call
The big men say boys you all have to go
Ask any question and you face the wall

Listen now what I tell you boy
There's got to be some changes
And they have to be made now
Hear the sound of the battle call
Soon you won't hear no sound at all


THE WAR SONG is an unreleased song written by Bruce Springsteen on or before 26 Apr 1968. The above lyrics are transcribed from a 1968 Bruce Springsteen notebook.

THE WAR SONG handwritten lyrics from Bruce Springsteen's 1968 lyrics notebook
THE WAR SONG handwritten lyrics from Bruce Springsteen's 1968 lyrics notebook

The 1968 Lyrics Notebook

A handful of Bruce Springsteen handwritten lyrics sheets and setlists were made public for the first time in June 2006 thanks to an It's Only Rock 'N Roll online auction. The highlight of the auction was a Springsteen spiral notebook of never before published collection of 20 handwritten lyrics from 1968:

  1. CLOUDS (2 pages)
  2. CRYSTAL (2 pages)
  3. THE WAR SONG (2 pages)
  4. THE WINDOW (2 pages)
  6. THE VIRGIN FLOWER (3 pages)
  7. FOR NEVER ASKING (3 pages)
  8. UPON THIS DAY (EURYDICE) (2 pages)
  9. UNTIL THE RAIN COMES (3 pages)
  11. DEATH OF A GOOD MAN (2 pages)
  12. ALONE (2 pages, lyrics by Norman Luck)
  13. NEW YORK MORNING LOVE (2 pages)
  14. SLUM SENTIMENTS (2 pages)
  15. SUN TIME (2 pages)
  16. MISSISSIPPI (2 pages)
  17. Untitled (1 page)
  18. LOVE CYCLE (3 pages)
  19. THE WIND AND THE RAIN (2 pages)
  20. Untitled (1 page)
Bruce Springsteen 1968 lyrics notebook (front cover)
Bruce Springsteen 1968 lyrics notebook (front cover)

The first page of the notebook is a "contents page" listing the first 15 songs.

Bruce Springsteen 1968 lyrics notebook (contents page)
Bruce Springsteen 1968 lyrics notebook (contents page)

Songs #1 to #4 were transcribed on 26 Apr 1968. Songs #5 to #7 were transcribed on 29 Apr 1968. Songs #8 to #11 were transcribed on 30 Apr 1968. These songs (#1 to #11) appear to have been transcribed into the notebook in a tidy fashion in three batches over a period of five days – same pen and writing style. These are likely to represent writings that Springsteen had accumulated over some time in late 1967 or early 1968, and then shifted into the newly purchased notebook.

There is no transcription date noted for songs #12 to #15. The writing style is more rushed and multiple pens have been utilized (both on the individual songs and in the "Contents Page" listing). These 4 songs may have been transcribed at separate times into the notebook over a more scattered timeframe after April 1968 (perhaps summer or fall 1968).

Songs #16 to #20 are undated and show much more "work-in-progress" characteristics. Various pens were used. These are likely to date from fall 1968 to late 1968 to possibly (in the case of #19 and #20) the early months of 1969.

Song #17: This untitled page seems to be too short to be a completed song, and is most probably just a work-in-progress idea.

Song #20: This untitled page appears to be merely a "lyrics ideas" sheet, with no song really formulated yet.

It certainly appears that the notebook, in total, contains Springsteen writings spanning the entire year of 1968. Several of the first 15 song titles (or slight variations of these titles), and particularly those from the first batch of 11 titles in the book, have been known about (in vague terms) for many years via the recollections of some people who actually saw Springsteen play solo at the time – including unpublished interview comments by the late Curt Fluhr of The Castiles.

Jeannie Clark Fisher, who opened for The Castiles in mid-1968 at Off Broad Street Coffee House in Red Bank, NJ, recalled several of the song titles years ago and has recalled that Springsteen had a repertoire of about 10-20 self-penned songs at the time. But nobody had ever seen any setlist or lyrics or audio to back up Jeannie's (or others') memory. For this reason, this notebook is such an important historical find.

Norman Luck, co-writer of ALONE, vaguely recalls some of the other song titles in the notebook, and recalls them as being from the late 1967 to spring 1968 period.

According to Brucebase, the first 15 of the above songs were performed in mid-1968 at The Off Broad Street Coffee House in Red Bank, NJ, which opened in May 1968 to cater for the acoustic orientated, singer/songwriter music scene taking hold in the area at the time. The club also hired rock bands and provided open mike and hoot nights for aspiring talent of all types. Springsteen is known to have given several solo performances at the club during the period between May and October 1968. These performances included an array of folk-orientated songs Springsteen had written in recent months – material that didn't fit into the rock setlists performed by The Castiles (and later Earth). These 15 songs represent most of Springsteen's original solo-oriented music repertoire played at these shows during May-Aug 1968.

For additional information, read below the notes about this notebook as published on the It's Only Rock 'N Roll auction page. Note that there are some minor mistakes and inaccuracies.

1967-68. is thrilled to be given the opportunity of offering for the very first time anywhere an item of unparalleled historical importance in the musical life of Bruce Springsteen; a never before published collection of handwritten lyrics by the then 18-year-old, aspiring future rock icon.

After being given a sneak peek at this treasure trove of writings, the definitive Springsteen website, BRUCEBASE, declared "It's an absolutely fascinating document of a period that we know very little about.!" Indeed, the discovery of these songs, most assuredly, can be viewed as the "missing ink" in Springsteen's transition from being a musician relentlessly honing his musicianship in a "cover" band to his development as a songwriter. The notebook can be divided into two sections; the first containing 15 songs spread over 17 double-sided pages and, the second, an additional three songs and a poem spread over four double-sided pages. Three examples of Springsteen's maze-like artwork are seen on both sides of the front cover and on the back cover of this spriral notebook. If one focuses closely, a smiling face comes into view on one.

Although Springsteen wrote and played a few of his own songs during his 1965-67 tenure in The Castiles, the group played mostly cover versions of other artists songs. However, in late 1967 The Castiles landed a series of gigs at the Café Wha? in Greenwich Village in NYC – smack in the heart of a blossoming singer-songwriter folk scene. It was during this period that Springsteen first began to seriously focus on writing his own songs. This group of 15 Springsteen compositions, one of which ["Alone"] was co-written by Springsteen and Norman Luck, emanate from the autumn 1967 to spring 1968 period. The date of transcription of the songs is noted as 26 Apr 1968. These are complete, final and titled lyrics sheets, all in Springsteen's handwriting. And 13 of the 15 songs even include the musical chord progressions.

By April 1968, The Castiles were undergoing changes. Some band members were going off to college and it was clear the band would likely fold during the summer. In May 1968, a small folk-orientated haunt opened in Red Bank called the Off Broad Street Coffeehouse. Springsteen began giving unadvertised, later advertised, acoustic solo performances which included his new, self-penned songs.

This group of 15 songs represents the core Springsteen repertoire of his legendary May-Nov 1968 solo gigs at The Off Broad Street. Indeed, if Bruce could have released a solo acoustic album in mid-1968, these are the songs that are likely to have made up that album.

The stylistic influence of poet-songwriters Tim Buckley and Leonard Cohen are clearly evident in these Springsteen compositions. What is remarkable about this group of songs is that they far more resemble the lengthy, sophisticated lyricism of Springsteen's 1972 CBS solo demos ("Song To Orphans", "Visitation At Fort Horn", "The Angel", etc.) than they do of Bruce's less lyrical progressive Rock songwriting efforts of the 1969-1971 period with Steel Mill, Dr Zoom and The Bruce Springsteen Band.

The 15 songs, all Springsteen originals, are written out by Springsteen on a "Contents" page. The songs are: "Clouds", "Crystal", "The War Song", "The Window", "Winter's Revelation (In 9 Illusions)", "The Virgin Flower", "For Never Asking", "Upon This Day", "Until The Rain Comes", "Inside The Castle Walls", "Death Of A Good Man", "Alone", "New York Morning Love", "Slum Sentiments", "Sunline". This group of 15 lyrics is a truly major historical find. While it is reasonable to conclude that Springsteen may have taped acoustic accompanied versions of these songs for his own reference, it is highly unlikely that full band versions were ever performed or recorded. No such recordings have surfaced to date.

The second section of this remarkable collection includes a poem and three additional songs:
"Love Cycle": A poem from mid-late 1968, not a song. The opening three words "The Listless feather" are the very same words used to open Springsteen's late 1968 poem, "My Lady", that was published in the Ocean County College Literary Yearbook in January '69. The final verse of the three-page poem contains lyrics that Springsteen would later use for his 1969 Child-Steel Mill song, "Resurrection".
"MISSISSIPPI": From the late 1968 EARTH era or 1969 CHILD era. There are 7 verses that make up the song (noted as 1 thru 7) and then it seems Springsteen has used the bottom of the second page to jot down some lyrical ideas for an untitled work-in-progess song.
"UNTITLED" (but is actually "The Wind And The Rain"); a near final draft probably from 1969 of the lyrics to the Steel Mill song.
"UNTITLED" Seemingly an incomplete, early starting draft (only one verse), but with chord progressions, of a song that might be eventually have been titled "Jesus, Mary & Joseph". Again this appears to be late 1968 or early 1969 time frame.

The notebook has been in our consignor's safety deposit box ever since he acquired it from former Springsteen roadie, Mike Batlin, during the late 1980s.

The bid on the notebook started at $5,000.00 and reached $57,706.61. The auction also included many other lyrics sheets and setlists from the late '60s and early '70s, which included additional songs, most of which were also unheard-of: WE'VE GOT TO DO IT NOW, SOMETIMES AT NIGHT, IF YOU WANT TO GET HIGH, OH NO NO NO, SPANISH DREAMS, GYPSY RIDER, SHE'S GOT THE LORD, and others.

The collector who purchased the notebook in the late 1980's never gave out any information about it. So we are lucky that this was a public auction sale, or else we may have never seen the contents.


Thanks Ted Stolze and Jake (ol'catfishinthelake at BTX and Greasy Lake) for the help.


If you have any corrections or additional info, please contact me via the below form or by email: . If you own or have access to the above-mentioned spiral notebook, I would be very grateful if you'd send me higher resolution scans. You will be credited, unless you prefer to stay anonymous. Thanks in advance.

Available Versions

List of available versions of THE WAR SONG on this website:

THE WAR SONG [Handwritten lyrics]

Page last updated: 18 Aug 2010