“Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen

Even though the first verse of “Dancing in the Dark” can be loosely interpreted as being romantic, the “dancing” in the title isn’t used in a sense of how the word is commonly interpreted. Rather within the context of this song, this term can be understood as being more akin to hustling. So the fundamental idea the titular phrase actually alludes to is Springsteen toiling in the middle of the night.

Indeed the genesis of this track dates back to an incident in which Jon Landau vehemently challenged the Boss to write a hit single, feeling that the “Born in the U.S.A.” album up until that point lacked one. The way Jon stepped to Bruce made Springsteen so upset that he wrote “Dancing in the Dark” in just one night. In fact it was the last track written for the album – and you can say an impromptu one at that.

But again the Boss wrote it while he wasn’t in the best of moods, and its lyrics reflect this reality. For instance, in the first verse he alludes to a feeling like perpetual exhaustion. In the second verse he expresses a sense of pessimism and something like low self-esteem in regards to his public image. And in the third verse he says he’s “starving tonight”, which all things considered reads as if it is a metaphor pointing to his tenacious determination to write a hit song.

A Song without any Elements of Romance?

Indeed this track may not be about romance at all. Instead when the Boss addresses the listener as “babe” in the first verse, perhaps it is a general term of endearment. And his mention of “crying over a broken heart” isn’t about a girlfriend but rather reads as if it alludes to giving in to depression in general.

Where the song gets really philosophical is when the Boss states “you can’t start a fire worrying about your little world falling apart”. This sounds like he is espousing the idea of risking it all in order to succeed, as he seemingly felt more or less as if his career was on the line when he was put under this pressure to write a hit.


So conclusively, “Dancing in the Dark” is the lyrical expression of Springsteen’s desire to come up with an instant hit song considering the substantial amount of stress he felt to do so. And considering that it went on to sell millions of copies, he actually succeeded at this task.

Lyrics of “Dancing in the Dark”

Music Video

The music video, which was filmed in St. Paul, Minnesota in the middle of one of Springsteen’s concert, had renowned filmographer Brian De Palma as its director. Additionally it features one of the earliest appearances of actress Courtney Cox of “Friends” fame.

The clip went on to take home the award for Best Stage Performance at the 1985 MTV VMAs.

Facts about “Dancing in the Dark”

In addition to singing the tune, the Boss also wrote and produced “Dancing in the Dark”. However, he received help in the song’s production department from the following producers:  

  • Jon Landau
  • Chuck Plotkin
  • Little Steven

“Dancing in the Dark” came out as the lead single from Springsteen’s classic album “Born in the U.S.A.”. Columbia Records released it as such on 3 May 1984.

The song itself earned the Boss his first ever Grammy Award, specifically in 1984, in the category of Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male.

Indeed “Dancing in the Dark” was quite successful in its day, having topped Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Chart, the US Cash Box 100 and music charts in Canada, Belgium and the Netherlands. It also went Platinum in Canada and the United States and triple-Platinum in Australia. And generally speaking it charted in almost 15 countries, including hitting number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

1 Response

  1. Alvaro Diego. says:

    Thanks for sharing all this information. It really helped me a lot to get the meaning out of each an every line in the song. Thanks a lot.

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