Bruce Springsteen was a prolific songwriter in his heyday. He garnered an early reputation for letting some of his best songs slip away to other artists, whether it was through covers like Manfred Mann’s take on ‘Blinded By the Light’ or songs that Springsteen decided not to take on himself, like Patti Smith’s ‘Because the Night’ or the Pointer Sisters’ ‘Fire’.
Eventually, Springsteen got wise to the idea that he should probably keep some songs to himself. When he was approached by Joey Ramones to write him a song, Springsteen reneged when the result was ‘Hungry Heart’, opting to keep the track for himself. During the Born in the U.S.A. recording sessions, Springsteen was asked by another prominent musician to write them a song: disco queen Donna Summer.
Springsteen’s manager, Jon Landau, was approached by Geffen Records head David Geffen to see if Springsteen would be interested in providing Summer with a new song. Geffen was trying to steer Summer in a more rock-friendly direction, and saw Springsteen as the ideal songwriter to help complete that transition. Springsteen obliged, and he proceeded to write ‘Cover Me’ with the intention of giving it to Summer.
Landau, well aware of Springsteen’s previous generosity leading to him missing out on hits, implored the singer to keep the song. Not wanting to leave Summer out to dry, Springsteen wrote a different song for her. That became Summer’s 1983 single ‘Protection’, which featured Springsteen playing the song’s guitar solo and singing strident backing vocals.
Instead of letting ‘Cover Me’ get covered, Springsteen added it to the growing list of songs that were being considered for Born in the U.S.A. By the time the album was released, ‘Cover Me’ was already two years old, having originally been recorded in early 1982. A month after the album’s release, ‘Cover Me’ was released as the record’s second single. Despite not having a video in the MTV era, ‘Cover Me’ still reached number seven on the Billboard Hot 100, one of seven top ten singles from Born in the U.S.A.
Watch Springsteen perform ‘Cover Me’ down below.