Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” Lyrics Meaning
“Born in the U.S.A.” can be placed amongst those classic American tunes in which the chorus is so powerful (and catchy) that the ultimate meaning of the song may be lost to most listeners. Indeed on the surface, with Bruce “the Boss” Springsteen powerfully exclaiming his country of birth, this track can easily be perceived as an exercise in patriotism. Yet quite to the contrary, it was originally conceptualized as a criticism of the Vietnam War. Said conflict proved to be an American military fiasco in the eyes of many, including apparently the Boss himself. Moreover some analysts have argued that concurrently the lyrics are meant to chastise the American rat race, if you will.
So from the onset of the lyrics, we see that even since birth, the singer has found himself in an inherently-disadvantaged position. In fact said setback is so pronounced that he and others born in a similar situation will have to dedicate ‘half their lives’ just to reach fair ground.
The second verse is where he delves into the Vietnam War. The narrator depicts himself as just an average dude. However, he gets into “a little hometown jam”. By this, he is insinuating that he broke the law somehow – though not seriously – and subsequently got caught. And in response the government had ‘put a rifle in his hand’ and ‘sent him off to a foreign land to go and kill the yellow man’. The idea which this passage is speaking to is a situation where apparently during the Vietnam War, some lawbreakers were given the option to either go to Asia and fight or go to jail.
But either way, the overall feel of the verse is that the singer was compelled by the government to engage in this conflict. And this is despite him personally having no vested interested in it nor genuine inclination to do so.
In the third verse, the narrator has now returned to the U.S.A., as a veteran. And not only does he have difficulty finding employment but also getting help from Veterans Affairs, i.e. the branch of government which is designed specifically to help such people. This particular passage is based on the fact that in reality when veterans did return to American from the Vietnam War, they were treated relatively-poorly by their own countrymen. And according to this song, the government itself also treated these veterans poorly for a number of reasons.
Now in the fourth verse the singer recounts that while he has in fact made it home from the conflict, he “had a brother” who also engaged in the war who is now “all gone”, as in dead. And overall, you can tell that this is someone he truly cared about and feels as if his life was wasted as the enemy they went to fight, “the Viet Cong”, “are still there”.
Finally in the fifth verse we find Bruce, still in character of said Vietnam vet, locked down for a considerable amount of time in prison. This is based on another sad fact of post-war life for many Americans who engaged in that battle, in which they found themselves later incarcerated. And it can be seen that when all is said and done, the narrator does indeed feel that his personal situation is hopeless.
Chorus of “Born in the U.S.A.”
Afterwards comes the chorus, “born in the U.S.A.”, once again being vehemently exclaimed. So this isn’t simply a matter of a down-and-out individual lamenting his fate. Rather there is also a strong sense of irony present throughout. In other words, the singer is amazed that after risking his life for his country, he now finds himself in a situation in which he is barely able to survive in his own homeland. Furthermore it can be said that his frustration is further exacerbated by the fact that the “U.S.A.” is indeed one of the richest countries on Earth.
So conclusively it may be argued by some that outside of the clear narrative being presented, the Boss also feels for the average American worker. But the idea that is most-pointedly put across is that the singer, Bruce Springsteen, is genuinely sympathetic of the plight of veterans of the Vietnam War.
The music video to this track was directed by John Sayles, reportedly under considerable time constraints.
Release Date of “Born in the U.S.A.”
This is the title song from Bruce Springsteen’s seventh-studio album. Both the song and the album were released by Columbia Records on 4 June 1984.
Said album also produced a bunch of other global hits, including the following:
Writing Credits for “Born in the U.S.A.”
“Born in the U.S.A.” was written exclusively by Bruce Springsteen. He originally wrote it to be featured in a movie which ultimately turned out to be 1987’s “Light of Day”. It also proved to the first song he had written for the album itself.
He also co-produced the track alongside three other producers: Landau, Steven and Plotkin.
Song meets with Mega Success!
“Born in the U.S.A.” is arguably the signature song of the Boss’s career. For instance, it made it onto Rolling Stone’s 2011 ranking of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. Moreover the RIAA itself placed it within the top 100 of their listing of the “Songs of the [20th] Century”.
Also the song went on to be certified Gold by the RIAA. Furthermore, it reached double-Platinum status in Australia and Silver in the UK.
Additionally the track made it onto the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. It also broke the top five of the UK Singles Chart and actually scored a number one in New Zealand and Ireland. And generally speaking it charted in nearly 15 countries. Moreover at the end of the day, “Born in the U.S.A.” (the album) went on to sell nearly 20 million copies.
Popular Covers of “Born in the U.S.A.”
This Springsteen classic has been legitimately covered by a number of artists, perhaps most-notably from the song’s heyday Patti LaBelle in 1985. The track was also sampled by the infamous 2 Live Crew in their 1990 song “Banned in the U.S.A.”, with the crew actually doing so with the Boss’s permission.
There has been a number of parodies also. Perhaps the most famous of all was Cheech and Chong’s 1985 tune, “Born in East L.A.”, which the comedic pair actually turned into a movie in 1987.