They kept harping that he can’t write hit singles. However, after the mainstream success of his song “Hungry Heart” which went up to number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts everybody knew that Bruce Springsteen had it in him to make the cash registers ring. While the record label was salivating over the fact that Springsteen could make his next album a commercial success his friends and well-wishers despaired that Springsteen’s gravitas and seriousness would become victim to the pressure to turn in a hit album. The man who they call “The Boss” had other ideas. Not only did he come up with an album of hit songs it became the album that would define him for a long period. His seventh studio album Born in the USA captured the zeitgeist of the mid-1980s and made truckloads of money for everybody involved.
Released on June 4, 1984, Born in the USA went on to become the most iconic album Bruce Springsteen has ever made and also the most successful commercially. Americans of all ages were besotted by the album that captured the emotions and feelings of the time when America was entering the decade of materialism. Born in the USA spoke about the time when life was innocent and people had time to look into their hearts and come to grips with what’s inside. Every song on the album pulled at your heartstrings and reminded people of an age gone by. The decade of greed was just opening up and the yearning for a simpler time was never better expressed than on Born in the USA.
Songs of Passion & Emotions
The album’s killer single “Dancing in the Dark” spoke of the harrowing loneliness of one man who just wants to connect with a woman who can understand him. It’s a song that expressed the pain of a person who wants to be understood but can’t find the right person. Over the years many artists have covered this song of intense pain and it still makes you flinch. Adolescent lust and passion have rarely been expressed with more honesty than on “I’m on Fire.” “Hey little girl, is your daddy home/ Did he go and leave you all alone?/ I got a bad desire/ Oh oh oh, I’m on fire.” Springsteen’s usual salute and a nod to hard-working blue-collar workers are on full show on the catchy “Working on the Highway” while “No Surrender” is a call to keep your spirits and head high even in the face of great adversity.
Nobody ever forgets their hometown and with time gone by one only remembers it with more love and fondness. Things that you took for granted haunt you as you look back on the journey your life has been. That’s the sentiment on the slow and wistful “My Hometown.” Living in the past and hanging on to the good days is what the protagonist does in “Glory Days” whether it’s the baseball star you once were or the good-looking dude you used to be. Talking about the old days when you were young and your whole life was in front of you won’t bring those days back but it is a situation almost everybody has found himself in at one time or the other.
“Bobby Jean” is a song about friendship and it has often been speculated that it is about Springsteen’s long-time friend and musical collaborator Steve Van Zandt. Springsteen himself has said that it is a goodbye song to his depressed self that came out so strongly on his earlier album Nebraska. “Darlington County” is a song about two buddies going looking for work and meeting pretty girls along the way.
The song that created controversy and is the most anthemic on the album is the title track “Born in the USA.” The song is about the economic and social hardships that Vietnam veterans faced when they came back from the brutal war and found a country that had now become alien to them. It was ironic that at the time the armed forces were being glorified the actual soldiers were facing a bleak future. The song became the emotional centre point of the album and is still a song that fills the listener especially Americans with deep emotion. The album had not a single filler with other songs like “Cover Me,” “Downbound Train,” and “I’m Going Down” expressing rich emotions that Springsteen brought from deep inside him.
The Poet of the Blue Collar Americans
Bruce Springsteen is a great American singer-songwriter whose albums over the last 5 decades have been the soundtrack of the blue-collar American and have spoken about his deepest fears, grand dreams, and personal emotions. Born in the USA contained the emotional drama that is always associated with Springsteen’s music in a way that had not been done before by him. It was an album that spoke personally to millions of Americans and made them proud of their country. That it is sold millions of copies is a testament to a man who could connect to the hearts and minds of his countrymen every time he sang. Time has not dimmed even a little bit the aural time capsule that Springsteen created with his passion and love for his country. It still resonates deeply every time it is heard.