Friday, June 4, 2010

A Patriotic Protest

It may be the most misunderstood song in music history.

But it's the tune that launched "Bossmania" and forever branded a Jersey boy named Bruce as the star he is.

26 years ago today, Bruce Springsteen released "Born in the USA", which became the best-selling album of 1985 in the United States. His seventh studio release, it became Springsteen's most successful album ever and produced a record-tying string of seven Top 10 singles (tied with Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and Janet Jackson's Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation 1814".

The title track has been used countless times by American politicians who try to use it as a flag-waving battle cry, unaware of the lyrical assault it makes on behalf of a bitter Vietnam Vet whose country forgot him. After reading Ron Kovic's "Born on the 4th of July" and the death of his own drummer in Vietnam, Springsteen became passionate about the plight of veterans. In 1981, he played six benefit concerts for the then-struggling Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation and began working on "Born In The USA" in early 1982 during a demo session that eventually turned into the brooding, acoustic-laden album "Nebraska".

But, when the E-Street Band showed up, Springsteen picked up his Fender Telecaster, ordered the boys to crank up the synthesizer and with the Mighty Max Weinberg hammering the beat, an anthem was born.

Those who thought Springsteen was a patriot missed the fact this was a protest record. Bruce himself once compared "Born In The USA" to Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land", a song written in response to Irving Berlin's patriotic, "God Bless America" and has itself been misinterpreted. According to Springsteen, Guthrie's song was "what America could have been about" rather than what it actually turned out to be.

Appearing on Spanish television, Springsteen demonstrated how differently things might have turned out had "Born in the USA" been released in its original, unplugged version.

The Boss was once quoted as saying, "I always wanted my music to influence the life you were living emotionally - with your family, your lover, your wife, and, at a certain point, with your children". It can be argued that without the Springsteen brand of emotional, heartland rock, there may not have been a Vietnam veterans movement. There may not have been a helping hand for those who needed it.

With "Born in the USA", a musician once considered a freak back in high school, taught America to stop vilifying its men and women in uniform.

And honor them instead.

"Blind faith in your leaders, or in anything, will get you killed"


Lenny Boudreau said...

Hey Gair...

Thanks for making me cry on Friday morning...Everyone at the office thinks my wife just left me...LOL

That last video in there really hits home with us potentially taking our lives and what we have precious for granted...

Great video...Nice wake up call...It's saved in my favorites...

jivin said...

I'm with you Lenny...tears flowing freely. I can only imagine the sacrifices soldiers and their families make. I thank you everyday!

I loved both versions of "Born in the USA" but I lived in the days of many heartfelt controversial war songs Viet Nam and etc.

Thanks Gair and happy Friday!

Mike Shanks PSP said...

I have seen the video floating around the social media landscape but had avoided watching it to this I had to click on play.

I have the luxury of that excitement most days when I get home...2 year olds are always happy to see their daddy. I can only imagine what it would be like for these folks.

Oh and like the previous two...yep tears were flowing!