Released in June of 1984, Born in the U.S.A is the seventh studio album by singer-songwriter rock legend, Bruce Springsteen. Written by Springsteen and produced by Jon Landau, Chuck Plotkin and Springsteen himself, the album became a huge commercial success upon release.
Positive reviews from critics also came in and the album peaked at number one both on US and UK charts, but it was the copies that the record sold that stood out. Selling over 30 million copies, it’s Springsteen’s most financially successful album of his 20 released so far.
Regardless of the numbers, many of the tracks have since entered the rock pantheon such as ‘Dancing in the Dark’ or the title-track ‘Born in the U.S.A’, the latter being a theme still heard today around stadiums, rallies and celebrations in the United States.
Production, tracks and political themes
When Springsteen released Nebraska in 1982, he had already been working on tracks for Born in the U.S.A for a couple of years. Production proved to be tricky, as this time was a farewell of sorts between Springsteen and his backing band, E Street Band. Tensions allegedly spilled over when producer asked the singer to write a single for the album release. Fuming, Springsteen and Landau had words before Bruce appeared the next day having written ‘Dancing in the Dark’ overnight.
Upon release the critics and fans had no doubts about the album. Striking upbeat and optimistic tunes almost throughout (contrasting with the somber Nebraska) tracks like ‘I’m on Fire’, ‘Dancing in the Dark’ and the title-track quickly became very memorable hits.
Many people miss out on the message of the album and it’s title song, the lyrics pointing out the tough lives of American veterans coming back from Vietnam, this message overshadowed by the upbeat nature of the track. Fair enough, but if you really want to convey this sort of message, the best way is not to name your song ‘Born in the U.S.A’ and have the cover be a picture of massive US flag.
After Born in the U.S.A
After his seventh record Springsteen would settle down with his wife and kids, musical output slowed down and he never really reached the same heights again. His next big album would come ten years later in the form of The Ghost of Tom Joad. By then Springsteen had lost much of his relevance and the times had moved on from his blend of pop, rock and folk.
Regardless of his slowly fading star, Springsteen is arguably one of the most important figures in popular rock of the previous century, Born in the U.S.A definitely cementing his place there. My favourite Springsteen song, ‘Dancing in the Dark’, interestingly features a young Courtney Cox in the song’s music video.