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#ThrowbackThursday: “Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen’s single “Born in the U.S.A.” reached the #9 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

by Sean Smith

Tomorrow is America’s 238th birthday! Well, sort of. The legal separation of the original Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain actually happened on July 2, 1776. It was on that day that the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, voted to approve a resolution declaring independence from Great Britain. July fourth is significant because it was on that day Congress approved the final written draft of the Declaration of Independence.

John Adams, one of our nation’s founding fathers and our country’s second President, thought that we would forever celebrate our independence on the second of July and not the fourth. Adams wrote the following to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

Despite what day John Adams thought we should be celebrating our independence, tomorrow many of us will attend parades, backyard barbecues, and then end the night by watching those illuminations in the sky as Adams so accurately predicted we would. Most fireworks shows around the country are accompanied by a soundtrack of songs that talk about America in some way. Some of the more popular songs to be included on these soundtracks in recent years are Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.,” Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA,” and one of the many pro-American anthems written by country star Toby Keith. Given the fact that the Fourth of July is tomorrow, today seems to be the perfect occasion to take a look back and remember another song that is often included in these firework display soundtracks, “Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen.

“Born in the U.S.A.” was the third single released off of Bruce Springsteen’s seventh studio album of the same name, released in 1984. The single would ultimately break into the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at the #9 spot. The album as a whole was remarkably successful. It reached the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 album chart, and was the top selling album of 1985.

For reasons that I can’t quite comprehend, the song “Born in the U.S.A.” has been viewed by many as this prideful nationalistic anthem that celebrates being an American. I believe that this view of the song completely misses its true meaning. While Springsteen may boast in the chorus that he was “Born in the U.S.A.,” the song’s verses speak to the struggles that many Americans were experiencing after America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Those  verses detailed a narrative describing some of the many struggles that soldiers faced when they were drafted, served in the war, and then when they returned home from serving abroad.

A great example of this is when he lends a voice in one of his verses to discussing the mental toll that war can take on a person by singing “Had a brother at Khe Sahn, fighting off the Viet Cong, they’re still there he’s all gone.” Springsteen also spoke to the troubles that many Vietnam veterans faced when looking for work after they  returned home by singing, “Come back home to the refinery, 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 now.'”

Many listeners with a passive ear may mistake Springsteen’s singing that he was “Born in the U.S.A.” as being a nationalistic and prideful boast of being an American. However, when you listen carefully to his lyrics you will instead find that the he is actually crying out for America to live up to it’s ideals; especially when it comes to dealing with veterans who have fought on this country’s behalf. I personally believe that with so many veterans now coming home after fighting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last ten years that the message in this song is as important to understand today as it was after Vietnam.

So with America celebrating its 238th birthday tomorrow, today we remember a song that I believe challenges America to live up to the greatness to which it aspires. Today we remember Bruce Springsteen’s American anthem “Born in the U.S.A..” We here at Clizbeats hope that you enjoy your holiday weekend as well as this great song!

Bruce Springsteen 

“Bron In The USA”

Columbia Records

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