“Tell me baby, have we lost everything that we had before?
What do you do in the day when I walk out the door?
I can see you made up your mind and I know our love’s on the line”
While many singers cover songs, it is a rare occasion when an accomplished singer/songwriter will put pen to paper for a specific person to record. Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and many others have done this in homage to their heroes and to give their careers a boost. This happened in the early 1980’s when Bruce Springsteen and Little Steven Van Zandt decided to call up veteran soul man Gary U.S. Bonds. Together, they crafted a duo of Springsteen-written, Van Zandt-produced and E Street Band-performed albums that brought Bonds back to prominence.
Achieving his first wave of success in the early 1960’s, Bonds had a string of hits in the late ‘50’s and early ‘60’s, including certified soul classics ‘New Orleans’ and ‘Quarter to Three’. Much like other soul success stories, Bonds failed to repeat his hits through the ‘70’s and retreated to the oldies tour circuit. His voice in fine shape, it was Van Zandt who ultimately came to see one of the performances and decided that he would be a perfect candidate for resurgence.
Coming from their second collaboration, 1982’s “On the Line”, ‘Love’s On the Line’ was a classic tale of what happens when life intrudes into someone’s love story. It was a familiar theme for Springsteen, but when song by Bonds, it became a powerhouse soul ballad. The instrumentation was heavily influenced by the Phil Spector Wall of Sound, featuring a memorable sax solo from Clarence ‘Big Man’ Clemmns. While 1981’s “Dedication” had the hit ‘This Little Girl’, ‘Love’s On the Line’ had substance beyond a two minute single. This experience exposed Bonds to a whole new rock audience and managed to give him a second phase to his career. He still tours year round and releases albums every few years. His 2004 album “Back in 20” featured a Springsteen cameo, as well as other guests, showing Bonds as an artists still in development and deserving of recognition.