On this day in 1984, New Jersey rocker Bruce Springsteen releases “Pink Cadillac” as a B-side to “Dancing in the Dark,” which will become the first and biggest hit single off “Born in the U.S.A.,” the best-selling album of his career.
Springsteen, who got his start playing in bar bands on the New Jersey shore, won a contract with Columbia Records in 1972. With the release of his third album, “Born to Run” (1975), Springsteen was touted as the new face of rock ‘n’ roll in America, and he appeared on the cover of both Time and Newsweek that year. Though “Born to Run” contained no breakout hits, tracks such as “Thunder Road,” “Tenth Avenue Freezeout” and the title track all got heavy radio airplay. In 1980, Springsteen scored his first real hit single, “Hungry Heart,” off his fourth album, “The River.” Outside the recording studio, he had become known for playing marathon live shows with his E Street Band.
The success of 1984’s “Born in the U.S.A.” would propel Springsteen to international stardom and secure his image as the iconic rock ‘n’ roller of the era. “Dancing in the Dark” was the first of 10 hit singles off the album. “Pink Cadillac” had first been recorded in an acoustic version during the 1982 sessions that became the album “Nebraska.” It was considered for inclusion on “Born in the U.S.A.” but didn’t make it, and was released as a B-side instead.
“Pink Cadillac” was Springsteen’s second song to reference the classic car brand created in the first years of the 20th century by Henry Leland. (The first, “Cadillac Ranch,” was included on “The River.”) Elvis Presley, whom Springsteen (and countless other rockers) looked to as an early inspiration, famously bought a blue Cadillac Fleetwood in 1955 and had it painted a special shade of pink dubbed “Elvis Rose.” He then gave it as a gift to his mother, who didn’t drive. That same year, Elvis and his band got into a serious accident in the car in Texarkana, Texas. The King’s pink Caddy–which he mentioned in the 1955 song “Baby Let’s Play House”–was repaired, and today remains on display at the Elvis Automobile Museum at his Memphis, Tennessee mansion, Graceland.
Though Springsteen played “Pink Cadillac” live over the years, it was not included on an album until 1998, when it appeared in the box set “Tracks,” a collection of outtakes from the rocker’s long career. In 1988, the R&B singer Natalie Cole scored a hit with her up-tempo version of “Pink Cadillac,” which rose to No. 5 on the Billboard pop music chart and to the top of the dance charts.