Springsteen and patriotism

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by sprog, Jul 17, 2013.

  1. sprog

    sprog Member

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    I was intrigued by a posting in a now-closed thread regarding the themes of Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." I was on vacation last week and didn't get the chance to chime in. This is something that has interested me for a while, as I too have heard the song blaring on the radio on the Fourth.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3PkmGgY4iw

    Above is the orginal version of the song recorded sometime in the early 1980s. I believe it was initially meant to be included in the Nebraska album, but was left off.

    There is no rousing chorus in this one, and the lyrics are more easily understandable. I think the true intent comes through a lot clearer in the earlier version. With the single that came out on the Born in the U.S.A. album, it's very easy to not listen to the lyrics. As mentioned in the other thread, it is a rather bleak song, and certainly not "patriotic" in the traditional sense.

    Frederick Douglass said "A true patriot is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins."

    In that sense, maybe the Boss's song is patriotic after all.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2013
  2. AF6872

    AF6872 Member

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    "Put a rifle in my hand to go and kill the yellow man". Might as well compare to any "Doors" song from the 60's. "Unknown Soldier" comes to mind.
     
  3. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Yeah- I understand that Springsteen is a New Jersey guy and everybody screams out the refrain when they are playing the song, but when you actually listen to the lyrics- you would be very hard pressed to call this a celebration of anything about the US. A number of years ago living in Texas and some parents cranked up some "patriotic" display to start the Jr High Football season- and had the Cheerleaders dancing to the old Guess Who song "American Woman"- perhaps even worse than using Springsteen as a Patriotic tune as that was a bunch of Canadians siging about rejecting everything about the US. But the girls dancing around out there didn't listen to any more of the lyrics than the two words "AMERICAN WOMAN"- it seemed nuts to me but what the heck they were swinging that flag around while they strut their stuff, so I guess it was a patriotic tune:rolleyes:

    Born in the USA is of the same genre as "Allentown" by Billy Joel. They are meant to highlight issues in American society from a working class perspective- but you wouldn't really play them on the 4th of July anymore than you would go to someone's birthday party and start off reminding them of how they got screwed by someone or something. Time and a place for everything IMHO even if they are really valid points of view.


     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2013
  4. Jcleppe

    Jcleppe Member

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    I had to smile when I saw a commercial on TV, can't really remember what they were selling but the Ad had a very Patriotic theme. Not really sure if the producers of the commercial ever really listened to the song before adding it to the commercial. There choice of songs....Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater. At least they had the foresight to fade out the lyrics after "I ain't no Senator's son"
     
  5. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Amazing how few people actuially listen to the lyrics:wink:
     
  6. AF6872

    AF6872 Member

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    "American Woman" a Canadian band the "Guess Who". Another listen to the lyrics before you decide.
     
  7. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    Wrong, it's like the totally perfect 4th of July song. Duh.
     
  8. MedB

    MedB Parent

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    American woman, said get away
    American woman, listen what I say
    Don't come a-hangin' around my door
    Don't wanna see your face no more
    I don't need your war machines
    I don't need your ghetto scenes
    Coloured lights can hypnotize
    Sparkle someone else's eyes
    Now woman, get away from me
    American woman, mama, let me be
     
  9. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    About as much as Woodie Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" is. How many elementary school assemblies use it as a classic "patriotic" song, sung by all the kiddies, instead of the "protest" song Mr. Guthrie intended it to be.

    Besides, we not all going to play the "I'm so much cooler because I GET what the song is about and you don't" games here, are we? Really, are we going to get into pretentious debates on which Radiohead album is the "coolest", or how many Phish concerts one needs to attend to be considered "a true fan"? Didn't that get old enough for you in High School?

    If someone has some memories triggered by a song of a certain time in their life or place they've been, who are we to judge?
     
  10. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    I'm so much cooler because I think "The Boss" sounds horrible. And I can admit it.
     
  11. AF6872

    AF6872 Member

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    Right with you LITS. Then again I am a sixty's guy,
     
  12. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    When I hear him sing, I think of someone putting a tube over a cat's head, and then squeezing the cat, from the middle, out toward the head and tail, like a tube of toothpaste. It doesn't sound like a meow or a hiss, but it sounds annoying and I wouldn't pay to listen to it.

    And it's not that I hate the time period or anything. I like Billy Joel and Tom Petty, etc.... but I really dislike Springsteen's voice.
     
  13. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Bullet to your point about musical associations- I agree that different songs do evoke different meanings among different folks and heaven knows I've been in enough good times where people blare the refrain "Born in the USA" and that's the association. I personally like Springsteen's music.
    And yet - the lyrics aren't really all that opaque in Born in the USA and really you don't have to have a degree in comparative music to see that it's not exactly a celebratory song that really brings out what the 4th is all about for most folks. Lyrics do matter - at least to me, and I personally just wouldn't associate that song as a July 4th tune any more than I would suggest listening to Country Joe and the Fish on Veterans Day http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuUBCF3KKxc. But you know- it's a personal deal- there is no right and wrong to these kind of conversations and there isn't supposed to be.

    Musical association is pretty powerful- I often find that songs bring back really strong, intense memories of either where you were when you first heard it played, or what you were listening to when something really memorable occured. When MTV came out- I hated the whole concept because I thought that it essentially manufactured associations rather than leaving you with a memory that you created yourself (And I guess I wasn't alone because the original premise of MTV has essentially died). Some songs are always gonna stay associated with unique events for all of us- and at least for me, I'm transported back in time to that event when I hear them. It's one of the really nice things about music. Of course it drives my wife and daughter crazy because when listening to XM Satellite radio in the car we always seem to be on Channels 60's on 6 or 70s on 7. Their associations with those tunes are probably mostly intense boredom:rolleyes:

    Bottom line- this is supposed to be a general "sitting at the bar having a beer shooting the bull" type conversation so let's make sure that nobody takes any of this personally- it's the ultimate "nobody's opinion is more or less valid than the next" topic:thumb:
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2013
  14. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    The difference being that, when sung by kids, Woodie Guthrie's song sounds plausibly sweet and innocent. As much as I'd love to hear kids sing "to go and kill the yellow man" I doubt it would charm many parents.

    I didn't know that basic cognition of simple lyrics was linked to "coolness." It's not like we're deciphering Dylan or cracking the enigma code.
     
  15. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    So Bruno, I have to ask. Aren't the lyrics to "This land is your land" not as opaque in their criticism of the America he saw in his day? Most folks conveniently remember only a few lyrics, and seem to somehow skip over the harsher parts when they play it on the 4th:

    As I went walking that ribbon of highway
    And saw above me that endless skyway,
    And saw below me the golden valley, I said:
    God blessed America for me.
    [This land was made for you and me.]

    I roamed and rambled and followed my footsteps
    To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts,
    And all around me, a voice was sounding:
    God blessed America for me.

    [This land was made for you and me.]Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
    A sign was painted said: Private Property,
    But on the back side it didn't say nothing —
    God blessed America for me.
    [This land was made for you and me.]
    When the sun come shining, then I was strolling
    In wheat fields waving and dust clouds rolling;
    The voice was chanting as the fog was lifting:
    God blessed America for me.
    [This land was made for you and me.]
    One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
    By the Relief Office I saw my people —
    As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
    God blessed America for me.
    [This land was made for you and me.]

    Or how about that very patriotic ditty Yankee Doodle Dandy. Gosh, it seems like every 4th of July we see James Cagney proudly signing and dancing while he tells the world he is one. He seems to forget the lyrics there as well. Something about how it was a song the British troops made up to poke fun at the "rube" colonists they were fighting, comparing them to the rather foppish "gentlemen" who frequented a notorious "Club" in London in the latest (and rather effeminate) attire. A Club with a name that sounded like "Macaroni". Really, a Fourth of July standard that is all based on questioning the American soldiers' sexuality?

    How about that rousing orchestral movement played at every fireworks display called "The 1812 Overture". I mean, what better way to celebrate our independence than to play a song that is a tribute to a war where we basically got our butts kicked, to include that oh-so-amusing episode of having our Capitol City burned down and our President chased out of his home. What they care about is the loud cannons going off in time to the fireworks, and not the embarrassing reminder of a low point in our history.

    You see, the lyrics and the themes of songs sometimes matter to people. And sometimes, they don't. Guys around a bar can recognize that. But let's not play coy games here that some on here were ridiculing others in a "not so veiled" and condescending manner. In a bar debate, them's close to fighting words. Or at least a rebuttal. :thumb:
     
  16. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    Perhaps not. But making fun of someone's feelings about a song as it is linked to memories is kind of linked to "pretension". High school levels of pretension.

    I do give credit for using words like "cognition" in a simple bar debate, however. But frankly, that also comes off as pretentious, at least with the guys in have bar debates with. :biggrin:
     
  17. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    Almost as "High school" as not fighting your own battles.

    This is America. The 4th can be about Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Aaron Copland, or Ozzy's collected works. Have at it.
     
  18. EDelahanty

    EDelahanty Member

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    I wouldn't call This Land is Your Land a protest song, even though the fourth verse is a critique of private property and the fifth describes hungry people on relief.

    Long ago at summer camp, we loved to sing This Land is Your Land, which we knew to have three verses. Since then I've always thought of it as a song celebrating the beauty, variety and vastness of our country. It's an uplifting song and unlike the Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, and My Country, Tis of Thee, you may want to clap to it, and many people do.

    I wasn't aware that wasn't the whole song, just like most of us have no clue the Spangled Banner has four verses, not just the verse sung before ball games. (On hearing the gratuitous and annoying vocal curlicues before Tuesday's All Star Game, I had to assure Mrs. Delahanty that Francis Scott Key wrote his poem in earnest and not as a prank.) But I'd be willing to bet that less than a tenth of 1% of us could recite the entire Star Spangled Banner.

    Out of the country on the day of Pres. Obama's first inauguration, I missed seeing the proceedings. So I just heard this somewhat stately version for the first time, featuring an elderly Peter Seeger, his grandson and LITS' favorite singer:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HE4H0k8TDgw
     
  19. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Well- this Land is your land" is pretty opaque other than the last verse that you are quoting (which I personally have never heard sung) and without that verse , would the average person infer that it was originally written as a protest song? Similarly, while Yankee Doodle is a silly ditty, one would have to be soemthng of a historian to know was originally conceived by the British to mock the Yankees, but if you were that historian you would also know that it then got adopted by the Americans as their own- and the American fifers played it to the humiliation of the British at Yorktown among other tunes. By contrast - it doesn't take any kind of music history to know the words- all of which are heard in every recording of "BIUSA" and one hardly has to use their imagination to know what he is talking about does one. That isn't opaque at all- it's pretty transparent I would say.

    You are showing your hind quarters with the second reference :eek: The 1812Overture has nothing to do with the US War of 1812- sorry my friend- it is about Napoleon and the invasion of Russia, (you know when the bells ring? That's the French defeat and it's the bells of Moscow ringing in celebration) and it is played because it was written with parts for cannon which dovetails nicely with the American tradition of 4th of July fireworks.

    Hey if you don't care that the character Springsteen is singing about in "Born in the USA" is basically saying- " I was Born in the USA, my life as a working stiff has sucked- I've gone to war, came home, had a hard time getting crummy job in a refinery- my brother was killed in that worthless war for nothing etc..." then I got nada to recommend otherwise as a 4th of July song. It's not really a theme that I see as 4th of July worthy- but again- I'm not the arbiter. Sorry that I'm not close enough to lift a couple with you while we bat it around.:biggrin:
     
  20. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    Yeah, I realized my boo-boo (got to be careful here, using big, pretentious words like "boo-boo" in my attempts to appear highly edu-ju-ma-cated) shortly after I posted.

    Guess I should stick to bar debates centered around "who is the better QB" or "which superhero is dorkier -- Aquaman or the Flash" :thumb:

    The point still stands though. Are the lyrics of "Born in the USA" not the best of examples to use as a patriotic song. (I do remember Reagan getting flak for suggesting that this was an "inspirational" song in the 82 or 83 timeframe.)
    I happen to agree. But who am I, or what right does anyone here (no matter how pretentious and condescending they want to be about it) have to tell someone that a song is a poor reference to remind them of something or somewhere, Like you said, Scout, This IS America.
     

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