Bruce Springsteen – Born In The U.S.A.

I’ve been working on a massive project lately, the results of which I’ll reveal soon. It has required me to listen to a few artists in a deeper way. One of those is Bruce Springsteen. I’ve never been a fan of him. Much like Bob Dylan, I have always understood what a talent he is, what a hero he is to some people, and knew that politically me and him are on the same side. But, his music did little for me other than not minding it if it was on. This past week I bought his Essential Bruce Springsteen collection. One song that always kind of annoyed me was “Born In The U.S.A.”. I pretty much roll my eyes at any patriotic song. They always come across as superficial and cheesy. I am proud to be an American, and also ashamed of our country at times. I always thought “Born In The U.S.A.” was the ultimate American anthem and never paid it much attention. Especially given the album cover. But, it turns out I never really listened to the lyrics. I really listened to them this week, and I realized it’s a anti Vietnam War song. Now, I really hear how angry Bruce Springsteen’s singing sounds. Apparently Ronald Reagan and others attempted to co-opt the song as a flag-waving slogan. Other than the chorus, I remember seeing the video and the video to me did look like a typical nostalgiafest of nationalistic images. Now, I come to see that the song is borderline punk. Much like “God Save The Queen” by the Sex Pistols, “Born In The U.S.A.” is a subversive critique. It’s a critique of war, why a person chooses to enlist, and the treatment of war veterans when they come back home. Here is a live video from 1985 recorded in France. I’m really moved by Springsteen’s passion. It’s also worth watching for his guitar solo at the end of the song. And a young Max Weinberg.

Here are the lyrics to the song:

Born down in a dead man’s town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much
‘Til you spend half your life just covering up

[chorus:]
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.

I got in a little hometown jam
And so they put a rifle in my hands
Sent me off to Vietnam
To go and kill the yellow man

[chorus]

Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says “Son if it was up to me”
I go down to see the V.A. man
He said “Son don’t you understand”

[chorus]

I had a buddy at Khe Sahn
Fighting off the Viet Cong
They’re still there, he’s all gone
He had a little girl in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I’m ten years down the road
Nowhere to run, ain’t got nowhere to go

I’m a long gone Daddy in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I’m a cool rocking Daddy in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.

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