Radio VIX, side B, track 7: “Born In The U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen

Oh, Bruce Springsteen, my understanding of this song evolved along with my understanding of the country you were singing about.  As a kid, I didn’t really pay much attention to the lyrics and focused on that much-loved chorus.  Hell YEAH I was born in the U.S.A. and who better to say it loud and say it proud than The Boss, right?  And let’s say I did actually pay attention to the lyrics, I honestly wouldn’t have known a damn thing about Khe Sahn or Saigon or anything like that, although I do think I might have gotten the gist of it.  Because this ain’t a patriotic song at all, Bruce Springsteen, even if politicians have tried to cynically exploit it as such.  This is a song about one man’s disillusion with the American dream, born into a hard life, getting sent overseas to do some pretty horrible things on behalf of the red, white, and blue and coming back home to continue that hard life.

I was lucky, Bruce Springsteen.  There were some aspects of my childhood that were less than ideal, but I never went to bed hungry, I never doubted where I’d sleep that night, never had to worry about anything beyond the typical silly, superficial crap that teenagers worry about.  It would take some time before I started getting my hands on books like Roots and The Jungle and Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee and started paying attention to the news and then I started to understand where that disillusion was coming from.  This song is the best metaphor there is to how I feel about being an American, a whirling, confusing mix of near-jingoistic pride in my country all jumbled up with a profound sense of sorrow and anger and yes, guilt, over the atrocities and bloodshed that have taken place so that I can sit in air conditioning and write a blog about songs that I love.

“Born In The U.S.A.”

Born down in a dead man’s town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
End up like a dog that’s been beat too much
‘Til ya spend half your life just to cover it up, now

Born in the U.S.A., I was
Born in the U.S.A., I was
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A., now

Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hands
Send me off to a foreign land
Ta go and kill
The yellow man

Born in the U.S.A., I was
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A., I was
Born in the U.S.A.

Come back home to the refinery
Hirin’ man says, “Son, if it was up ta me”
Went down ta see my V.A. man
He said
“Son, don’t ya understand, now?”

I had a brother
At Khe Sahn
Fightin’ off the Viet Cong
They’re still there
He’s all gone

He had a woman he loved in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms, now

Down in the shadow of the pen-itentiary
Out by the
Gas fires of the
‘Finery, I’m
Ten years burnin’
Down the road
Nowhere ta run, ain’t got
Nowhere ta go

Born in the U.S.A., I was
Born in the U.S.A., now
Born in the U.S.A.
I’m a long gone daddy in the U.S.A., now

In the U.S.A.
In the U.S.A.
In the U.S.A.
I’m a cool rockin’ daddy in the U.S.A., now

<awesome Bruce Springsteen jam>

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6 thoughts on “Radio VIX, side B, track 7: “Born In The U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen

  1. Andrés Erre Dos says:

    Nice post, I mean it, yeah, As you happened to, many people didn´t understand or even misunderstood the real message conveyed thru this song. I think every country in the world and every period in History, has its lights and shadows, United States is not an exception, mine, either. And to be honest, what I admire most of your country is the fact that it stands for a democracy built from the bottom to the top, not many nations have achieved that.


    • Starstorm says:

      Thanks, Andres, for the kind words about both my post and my country 🙂 That’s a great way to put it, too, about every country having its lights and shadows. That really sums up the U.S. to me, a country full of lights and shadows, capable of such unbelievable greatness and unbelievable darkness all at the same time.


  2. mskatykins says:

    Very nice post, Starstorm, thought provoking. 🙂 I love The Boss, this one isn’t actually a favourite of mine but I loved reading your reasons and explanations. 🙂 I’m pleased to say I have ‘The Jungle’ (although it’s only part read. It is up here on the Island with me, so I should read it properly before returning home!), have got ‘Wounded Knee’ on my amazon wishlist. Now I should seek out ‘Roots’.

    That’s a great comment from Andres, I have to say that I’m one of the people who didn’t know the true meaning of the track, I think that’s mostly because I didn’t ever listen to it properly. It’s nice to have this interpretation. 🙂


  3. harleybird says:

    Never was a fan but now I know more about this song than I ever did before. Thanks. 🙂


  4. Andrés Erre Dos says:

    Thank you both, Starstorm and Mskatykins for your kind words, too, mine were sincere, I wish my countrymates had the same conception of democracy and the sense of what a nation is, the same way you Americans do. Peace is good, but nothing without Freedom. Hugs!


  5. Reblogged this on Countdown to Extinction and commented:
    Denne side og dette indlæg er som taget ud af min verden. En mand, formoder jeg, blogger om de bånd der var soundtrack til hans teenageår. Én for en bliver sangene gennemgået. I dette indlæg er det Bruce Springsteens Born In The USA der bliver husket og forstået.
    Jeg synes det er særlig fint med de mange kommentarer – der er håb for musikelskere og naive bloggere over hele verden ,-D


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