https://www.nationalreview.com...d-reagan-reelection/

Bruce Springsteen, Accidental Patriot
By KYLE SMITH
June 4, 2019 6:30 AM

Bruce Springsteen fans carry a flag outside Fenway Park prior to the first of two Springsteen shows at the ballpark in 2003. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
How Bruce Springsteen helped reelect Ronald Reagan

George Will got it wrong, once, sort of. On September 13, 1984, he wrote about a Bruce Springsteen concert he had attended, ears packed with cotton. He called the performance of the title tune “a cheerful, grand affirmation: ‘Born in the U.S.A.!’”

The title track of the album released 35 years ago today, “Born in the U.S.A.” is about as cheerful as a suicide note from an embittered veteran suffering from PTSD. And yet Will was on to something. The passage in question reads:

I have not got a clue about Springsteen’s politics, if any, but flags get waved at his concerts while he sings songs about hard times. He is no whiner, and the recitation of closed factories and other problems always seems punctuated by a grand, cheerful affirmation: “Born in the U.S.A.!”

Ronald Reagan, running for reelection, picked up on Will’s theme six days later while campaigning in Hammonton, N.J.: “America’s future,” he said, “rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts. It rests in the message of hope in the songs of a man so many young Americans admire—New Jersey’s own, Bruce Springsteen.”

I’m not sure which detail seems more shocking today: That Reagan considered Springsteen’s work a “message of hope” or that he campaigned in Hammonton, N.J. (Reagan would carry the state by 20 points). Springsteen’s retort in a concert later that week was, “Well, the president was mentioning my name in his speech the other day, and I kind of got to wondering what his favorite album of mine must’ve been, you know? I don’t think it was the Nebraska album. I don’t think he’s been listening to this one.” He then kicked off “Johnny 99,” one of his many slit-your-wrists songs from his previous album, Nebraska.

Neither Reagan nor Will would have confused that one for a message of hope. Nebraska was so morose and dirge-like that it could have been dedicated to Walter Mondale. Born in the U.S.A. and “Born in the U.S.A,” though, marked a new Springsteen. Like the New York Times editor who said, “Let me control the headlines, and I shall not care who controls the editorials,” Reagan and Will were attuned to the big splash instead of the fine print. The lyrics mattered less than the tune.

Springsteen always wanted to be a rock hero — he may have worshipped the earthiness of Woody Guthrie, but he wanted to punch an Elvis-sized hole in the universe. Clive Davis, the founder of Arista Records, told the rocker in his early days that his performances were inert. Two years later, at the Bottom Line club in New York City, Springsteen invited the record mogul to see his new act: Now he was running crazily around the joint, jumping on tables. “Clive,” he asked after the show, “did I move around enough for you?”

When Born in the U.S.A. came out, Springsteen was 34 and had only one top-ten hit single to his name (“Hungry Heart”). He craved radio stardom. After six albums, he risked being pigeonholed as a critics’ darling. When Jon Landau, his manager, pointed out during production that the album lacked a hit single, Springsteen went away and wrote one more tune, “Dancing in the Dark” — a song about frustration and alienation that nevertheless built on killer synthesizer riffs that made it commercial, even danceable. “It went as far in the direction of pop music as I wanted to go — and probably a little farther,” Springsteen said at the time. Every single track on Born in the U.S.A. channels regret, fear, pain, loss, aging, and/or frustration — in its lyrics. Yet those songs filled stadiums. The album octupled Springsteen’s store of top-ten hits.

“Born in the U.S.A.” kicked off those fabled marathon shows on the Born in the U.S.A. tour. It may have been conceived in bitter irony, meant to capture the same hollowed-out shock as the Vietnam-ravaged characters from Pennsylvania who sang “God Bless America” at the end of The Deer Hunter six years earlier. But if you want your audience to feel despondent, don’t set your synthesizer to “triumphant.” For all of its gloomy words, “Born in the U.S.A.” became an American anthem malgré lui. The song roars. It defies. It conquers. It makes people holler and stomp and wave flags. Springsteen played it against a gigantic American-flag backdrop: If the goal is to depress everyone à la Nebraska, don’t play ringing rock riffs to an image of Old Glory the size of a billboard.

With the album’s release, the flag became the star image of the summer of 1984. Back then, hit LPs were a kind of American wallpaper: You’d see them everywhere. Everyone spent a lot of time in malls, all of the malls had record stores, and all of the record stores displayed their best-selling and most eye-catching albums. Sticking in the top ten all summer, Born in the U.S.A., featuring Springsteen’s white T-shirt and blue jeans in front of the flag’s stripes, was emblazoned on America’s retina. It was an unintended gift to Reagan’s reelection campaign. It helped make America feel good about itself, even great about itself. When, that August, America dominated in the Los Angeles Summer Games that were being boycotted by the Soviet Union and its lackeys, it was the most patriotic moment since the moon landing. For good measure, the hit movie at the time was Red Dawn. Reagan’s landslide was assured before election season even kicked off after Labor Day.

“Morning in America,” the title of a corny TV commercial, was often described as Reagan’s all-but-official reelection theme. Really it was “Born in the U.S.A.” There is only one upbeat line in it, but it’s the last one Springsteen sang: “I’m a cool rockin’ daddy in the U.S.A.” Despite everything he’s endured, the narrator is still rockin’, still cool. Even those who paid close attention to the lyrics of the accidental anthem could take from it this: Dark as things got in a previous era, this is a new generation. The draft is no more. We have shaken off the pall of Vietnam. We are back. We are Americans, and it’s time to shout it out loud again. We were born in the U.S.A.


KYLE SMITH is National Review’s critic-at-large. @rkylesmith

 

people would jump onstage and grab me by the head and scream, ‘tilly! bootlegs!'"

Original Post

here are some entertaining reader comments from our conservative friends

VRWC
6 months ago
Springsteen's lyrics versus his tunes have long inspired confusion. I have always been amused by the fact that "Born to Run", which is the official state song of New Jersey, is essentially a song about getting the heck out of New Jersey.

 

GilVicente
6 months ago
As a fellow, but former NJ boy I whole heartedly agree. Springsteen sucked after going main stream liberal .

mjkelly0317
6 months ago
I can’t get past his mumbling. No one from N.J. talks like he does. He’s a phony.

 

jemcpeak
6 months ago
I'm the same age as Springsteen and a Vietnam vet. That special summer I lived alone in the country with some dogs. I knew the negative connotations but every time I had some drinks I'd blast that rockin' song 'till the dogs ran off! It's not just a song, it's music, it's emotion and Kyle Smith is exactly right.

 

Left_Lock
6 months ago
Born in the USA has long been one of my favorite tunes (I was headed for high school when it came out. I still crank things up as loud as I can get away with every time it comes on the radio. I have no idea what Springsteen was trying to say when he wrote it

 

sonik
6 months ago
I was born in 1982 and "Born In The USA" is burned into my mind as the first rock song I was ever really aware of. I can remember it playing from a radio while I bumbled around the house at the age of three or so. Like most toddlers I normally listened to Muppet songs and such (thank god Barney hadn't been invented yet), and I clearly remember thinking that THIS was something different. That something was rock music.

 

GilVicente
6 months ago
One need only drive past Springsteen's Rumson mansion or Colts Neck farm with classic car collection in NJ to know he is a fraud. He buys riding horses costing 100s of thousands for his daughter. He cheated his unionized roadies years back. He is a limousine liberal telling everyone else how to live, but not live it himself. Dont see him making charitable financial contributions. He didnt do squat for New Jersey. He stopped being any good after 1985 when he decided to be the next Woody Guthrie with his Nebraska album. In interviews he sounds like a mumbling incoherent homeless person.

PG1
6 months ago
Fake factory worker, fake working class boy and now fake cowboy.

Ukrainiac
6 months ago
Read another article then. It's a free country.

 

Leroy
6 months ago
60 million of us weren't born in the USA.

MichaelF
6 months ago
270 million of us were

mjkelly0317
6 months ago
I know this is a blasphemous statement from someone born and bred in New Jersey, but Springsteen should have quit after The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle. Everything after that album has been absolutely awful.

dougrhon
6 months ago
That's insane. Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town awful?

 

 

people would jump onstage and grab me by the head and scream, ‘tilly! bootlegs!'"

I had to check the date of this article twice since I thought I'd misread the 2019.  Nope, he actually wrote this in 2019, after 18 years in Afghanistan and 16 years in Iraq.

I suppose I should fine it comforting there are people who inhabit an alternate universe and are happy there.


 

"I've done my best to live the right way"

All the people on that website inhabit the alternate universe

I was not happy when they voted idiot from hell into office

This guy seems to like Springsteen, or made up a bunch of reasons why he finds him and his song useful. 

He still trashed Glenn Campbell ruthlessly

Thanks for bringing this to my attention, I learned some things

Now I am done learning, and have returned to this universe

These people remind me of "The Klansmen"

I don't have a problem ignoring them until they try to cancel people's health insurance and try to deport people who have lived here for 20 years and have families

What is the point of being the United States if we do things like that?

Don't ask them, they have a crazy answer for everything

“I’m a cool rockin’ daddy in the U.S.A.”

people would jump onstage and grab me by the head and scream, ‘tilly! bootlegs!'"

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