Bruce Springsteen lyrics -- Bruce Springsteen shows -- Bruce Springsteen records

Song title: It's hard to be a saint in the city

It's hard to be a saint in the city

I had skin like leather and the diamond-hard look of a cobra
I was born blue and weathered but I burst just like a supernova
I could walk like Brando right into the sun
Then dance just like a Casanova
With my blackjack and jacket and hair slicked sweet
Silver star studs on my duds like a Harley in heat
When I strut down the street I could feel its heartbeat
The sisters fell back and said “Don’t that man look pretty”
The cripple on the corner cried out “Nickels for your pity”
Them downtown boys sure talk gritty
It’s so hard to be a saint in the city

I was the king of the alley I could talk some trash
I was the prince of the paupers crowned downtown at the beggar’s bash
I was the pimp’s main prophet I kept everything cool
A backstreet gambler with the luck to lose
And when the heat came down it was left on the ground
The devil appeared like Jesus through the steam in the street
Showin’ me a hand I knew even the cops couldn’t beat
I felt his hot breath on my neck as I dove into the heat
It’s so hard to be a saint when you’re just a boy

And the sages of the subway sit just like the living dead
As the tracks clack out the rhythm their eyes fixed straight ahead
They ride the line of balance and hold on by just a thread
But it’s too hot in these tunnels you can get hit up by the heat
You get up to get out at your next stop but they push you back down in your seat
Your heart starts beatin’ faster as you struggle to your feet
Then you’re outta that hole and back up on the street
And them South Side sisters sure look pretty
The cripple on the corner cries out “Nickels for your pity”
And them downtown boys sure talk gritty
It’s so hard to be a saint in the city

Notes: Known outtakes and the Tracks version are not different from the original album take.

Statistics from the KILLING FLOOR ( database

Published on the following official releases:

First known live performance: 02/05/1972 The Gaslight au go go, New York,NY ,USA
Last known live performance: 21/02/2017 AMI Stadium, Christchurch ,New Zealand

Song 'history':

Played live 3 time(s) during the so-called 'Greetings Tour' and 37 time(s) during the gigs preceeding the official Born To Run Tour.
Keep in mind that only a small amount of the setlists of these years has surfaced, so it may have been played a lot more.
Apart from the above live performances, the song was recorded for the historical 'Hammond demos' in May 1972 and also for the Laurel Canyon / London Publishing demos, then recorded again during the Greetings / Wild sessions in 1972-73 (and released on GREETINGS....)
Often played during the Born to Run tour (69 times)
Played during the Darkness tour (22 times)
Two only renderings for this song in the River tour (11/09/1981 Rosemont Horizon, Chicago,IL ,USA and 14/09/1981 Riverfront Coliseum, Cincinnati,OH ,USA)
The song (in live version) was then included in the 'LIVE 1975-85' box set
Not much used during the Ghost of Tom Joad tour, deserving only less than a dozen renderings
The TRACKS studio out-take collection included an alternate version of the song.
Bruce gave this song only two shots through the Reunion tour (29/05/2000 Delta Center, Salt Lake City,UT ,USA and 20/06/2000 Madison Square Garden, New York,NY ,USA)
Scarcely used during the Rising tour, with 5 inclusions
Scarcely used during the Devils and Dust tour, with 3 inclusions
Not much used during the Magic tour, deserving only 5 renderings
Not much used during the Working on a Dream tour, deserving only 5 renderings
Published in live version in the 3rd DVD: House Cut 'Houston '78 of 'The Promise'
Not much used during the Wrecking Ball tour, deserving only less than a dozen renderings
Bruce gave this song one only shot through the High Hopes tour (26/02/2014 Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Brisbane ,Australia)
During the 2016 The River tour, the song was played less than a dozen times
Performed 2 times during the 2017 Summer tour

The song was also played in informal happenings or off-tour appearances
Data from the database