Years and years of rock 'n' roll writers repeating it doesn't make it untrue: Bruce Springsteen's 1984 song "Born in the U.S.A." might be one of the most misunderstood tunes in pop history.
Though lyrically elegiac, the song's pumping synths and typically '80s snare hits (how they reverberate on forever) made the thing feel like an arena rock anthem, and it was quickly appropriated as one, and even more egregiously, as a political rallying tool for Ronald Reagan.
We could keep discussing how everyone failed to grasp the song's political message (listen to this Nebraska-era demo; it should clear it all up) but listening to "We Take Care of Our Own," the first single from Springsteen's new album, Wrecking Ball, due out on Tuesday, March 6, I'm reminded of a fact that often gets washed away in critical "Born in the U.S.A." apologetics: Bruce Springsteen's work is patriotic.
Protesting is, of course, a patriotic act in itself, but listening to "We Take Care of Our Own," with its chiming bells, classic drums, and definitively "Brooooooooce" vocals, it's easy to imagine Red and Blue states alike pausing to consider lines, "We take care of our own/wherever this flag is flown," "Where's the work that will set my hands and soul free?" and "Where's the promise from sea to shining sea?"
Nearly everyone learned "This Land Is Your Land," the Woody Guthrie folk standard, growing up in school. But few of us learned this verse:
As I went walking I saw a sign there And on the sign it said "No Trespassing." But on the other side it didn't say nothing, That side was made for you and me.
Springsteen sang the song for Live/1975-85, and has spent years making his political leanings clear (Tom Morello, of Rage Against The Machine, is featured as a guest on Wrecking Ball), but there's something powerful in recognizing that with "We Take Care of Our Own," his sentiment is an undeniable one, something that resonates regardless of political convictions or lack thereof: We're all in this together, like it or not.
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1. We Take Care of Our Own 2. Easy Money 3. Shackled and Drawn 4. Jack of All Trades 5. Death to My Hometown 6. This Depression 7. Wrecking Ball 8. You've Got It 9. Rocky Ground 10. Land of Hope and Dreams 11. We Are Alive