Song of the week: Born in the USA

Bruce Springsteen known as « The Boss » is one of the most successful musician of all time. Born in New Jersey in 1949, Springsteen had a conflictual relationship with his father. He rapidly began to play the guitar, If his first two albums Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, released in 1973 showed the world his talent, it is his third album Born to Run that made him the iconic rockstar he is today. Later in the 80’s his album Born in The USA released in 1984 would become one of the best-selling records of all time. The artist used his working class roots to really capture the essence of the American Dream in the lyrics of his songs . His commitment to the American working-class made him take actions in political causes and Springsteen was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2016. Springsteen’s songs are still relevant especially the American working class is feeling more and more left behind by the politicians.

Contrarily to what one may think, this song is definitely not a anthem for USA’s glory. In fact, it’s totally the opposite. Born in the USA, deals with the return of a veteran from Viêt Nam war, and how he is rejected by people. In fact, the song is divided in 5 verses but we decided to focus on the 1,2 and 3 :

The first one relates the birth of the man in a “dead man’s town”, then he said “The first kick I took was when I hit the ground”. These two sentences warn us right off the bat that this song isn’t a happy patriotic song.

The second part narrates the moment when he had to go to the war : “They put a rifle in my hand, Send me off to a foreign land, To go and kill the yellow man”. There, the yellow man, obviously means the Viet Cong soldiers. Bruce uses the passive voice to highlight the fact that this poor man had not have any choice.

The third verses tells the return of the man and the difficulties that many veterans of Viêt Nam war had to go through especially the unemployment and the lack of support from the Veterans Affairs :

“Hiring man says, “Son if it was up to me, Went down to see my V.A. man, He said, “Son don’t you understand”.

Finally, these verses are surrounded by an ironic chorus that chant the title of the song : “Born in the USA, I was born in the USA”.

Released in 1984, this song denounces the real nightmare inflicted to the American soldiers in the Viêt Nam war. They had not the choice to go to war which contrasts with the fact USA is known for being a country of possibilities and Springsteen probably wanted to protest against this hypocrisy.


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© 2019 by the students of Lycée Paul Gauguin Tahiti.