History of the song: Born in the United States by Bruce Springsteen
FAr being a chauvinist flag agitator, âBorn in the USAâ addresses the mixed feelings of American soldiers when they returned from Vietnam in the 1970s. It’s Bruce Springsteen’s “This Land is Your Land”, Woody Guthrie’s condemnation of American institutions in 1940. Like Guthrie, Springsteen’s protagonist is proud to be American, but he has witnessed his country’s shortcomings. âIn order to understand the intent of the song, you have to invest some time and effort to absorb both the music and the lyrics,â Springsteen said. “But that’s not the way a lot of people use pop music.”
The song’s origins date back to 1981, when director Paul Schrader sent Springsteen a screenplay titled Born in the United States, and asked the Boss to make a soundtrack for his future film. It gathered dust on Springsteen’s desk for about a year, until he glanced at it while writing a new song, tentatively titled “Vietnam”: “I looked and j sang at the top of Paul’s cover, “he recalls. The song took the form of an acoustic number, but was boxed when it failed to make Nebraska, Springsteen’s unplugged 1982 collection. Two years later, boosted to the max with the help of his bandana lieutenant Steve van Zandt and a battalion of East Street musicians, it became the title song of his next album. The synthesizer riff, the chorus that hits the air and the thumping drums are mixed as loud as Texas: âMartial, modal and straight ahead,â as Springsteen puts it.
âThe first guy I played ‘Born in the USA’ for was Bobby Muller, a veteran and then president of the Vietnam Veterans of America,â Springsteen said. Muller sat down at the console and Bruce nudged at the volume: “I arrived in a little hometown jam / so they put a gun in my hand / sent me to a foreign country / to go kill the yellow man. ” âHe just sat there listening to the first two verses for a while,â Springsteen said. “And then a big smile crossed his face.” For years after her release, Springsteen was bothered by kids on Halloween knocking on her door with candy bags and singing the song to her. “They weren’t particularly familiar with the lyrics to ‘Had a brother in Khe Sahn …’,” he muttered.