Bruce Springsteen is a man who needs little introduction. Nevertheless, even his most popular work is often misrepresented. Indeed, his biggest-selling album, Born In The U.S.A., became a symbol of patriotism in the 1980s. But few realized that its title track was, in fact, a protest song about the treatment of Vietnam vets. And fewer still knew the surprising reason why the musician himself avoided fighting in the Vietnam conflict.
Poster boy for the American Dream
If you grew up listening to mainstream radio in the 1980s, it was hard to escape rock legend Bruce Springsteen. Indeed, the musician was even held up as a poster boy for the American Dream by then-president Ronald Reagan as he ran for re-election. In truth, however, Springsteen’s music had ventured on an unexpectedly political course.
More socially aware
His earlier lyrical themes had reflected Springsteen’s own roots in New Jersey and a desire for something more than his hometown of Freehold had to offer. But on his sixth record, Nebraska, the singer explored themes of a more socially aware nature. And this would fuel the direction that its follow-up, Born In The U.S.A., later took.
Ronald Reagan was wrong
Born In The U.S.A. went for a more pop-rock sound than its stripped-back and somewhat dark predecessor. It was certainly a style that resonated with 1980s America. But the album’s seemingly nationalistic themes and fist-pumping anthems veiled a deeper message – and it was one Reagan had gotten very wrong.
The truth was much darker
You see, Reagan had name-checked Springsteen and Born In The U.S.A.’s title track as a beacon of hope for America. However, in truth, the song was written about the forgotten veterans who’d returned from Vietnam to a country that cared little about them. And it was a subject that resonated strongly with the musician.