Bruce Springsteen Enlists The Roots & The Nightshift For Authoritative ‘Don’t Play That Song’ On ‘Fallon’

Nearly 30 musicians loaded the 30 Rock stage for the Ben E. King song on The Tonight Show’s special Thanksgiving episode.

By Scott Bernstein Nov 25, 2022 6:59 am PST

Bruce Springsteen made his fourth and final The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon performance of the month a memorable one last night. The Boss appeared on the program’s special Thanksgiving episode backed by The Nightshift and The Roots for a joyous rendition of Only The Strong Survive cut “Don’t Play That Song.”

The 73-year-old musician made his debut as a Fallon musical guest last week, when he was backed at 30 Rock by his newly assembled ensemble The Nightshift for songs off Only The Strong Survive on November 14, 15 and 16. Only The Strong Survive, Springsteen’s 21st studio album, arrived on Friday, November 11 via Columbia Records. The LP features 15 classic soul and R&B covers selected by The Boss to show off his vocal abilities.

Bruce Springsteen is no stranger to fronting talented ensembles. The E Street Band, his regular collaborators, are so good they gained induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. The Boss put together The Nightshift to help record and promote his new covers album.

The massive outfit features founding E Street Band keyboardist David Sancious, drummer Zoë Brecher, a percussionist Anthony Almonte, bassist Rose Blanshei, string players Katie Jacoby of The Who and Scott Metzger fame and Francesca Dardani, a five-person horn section (Barry Danielian, Stan Harrison, Ed Manion, Curt Ramm and Richie “La Bamba” Rosenberg) and seven backing vocalists (Dennis Collins, Felicia Douglass, Curtis King, Lisa Lowell, Michelle Moore, Vaneese Thomas and Fonzi Horton). Springsteen, who didn’t touch a guitar over the course of his Fallon appearances, left guitar work to Only The Strong Survive co-producer and contributor Ron Aniello.

The Boss recently told Rolling Stone that he’s looking play with The Nightshift in the future.

“It’s like the Seeger Sessions band. It’s a band that good,” Springsteen revealed. “It’s got great people in it. Eventually, I’ll do more with them because it was so enjoyable.”

Betty Nelson teamed up with Ahmet Ertegun, the Atlantic Records co-founder/president who became a music industry legend, to write “Don’t Play That Song.” Nelson gave the tune to her husband, Ben E. King. The original was released in 1962 and reached number 2 on the U.S. R&B singles chart. Atlantic Records artist Aretha Franklin put her own spin on “Don’t Play That Song” backed by the Dixie Flyers for a chart-topping 1970 single. Springsteen kept more in line with King’s version.

Bruce Springsteen and The Nightshift were powering through “Don’t Play That Song” when The Boss went off-script. First, he adlibbed lyrics about summers on the Jersey Shore. Then, he wished a Happy Thanksgiving to all those watching and reeled off some of his favorite dishes, including sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top. Finally, the New Jersey native introduced The Roots. The Fallon house band was shown on a stand set up on stage left adding to the action for the remainder of “Don’t Play That Song.”

Watch Bruce Springsteen lead “Don’t Play That Song” on Fallon below:

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