Study Guide

Born in the U.S.A.

Born in the U.S.A. Introduction

In a Nutshell

It's one of the most iconic—and most misunderstood—songs in rock and roll history.

Is it the ultimate patriotic (or even jingoistic) anthem, the perfect accompaniment to roaring "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!" chants? Or is it a bitter protest record, its famous chorus meant as an ironic commentary on a shattered American Dream?

The answer to that question depends on whether you want to hear the song that Bruce Springsteen wrote, or the one that his fans tended to hear.

Never has the distance between chorus and verses been so great.

About the Song

ArtistSpringsteen, Bruce & The E Street Band
Year1984
LabelColumbia Records
Writer(s)Bruce Springsteen
Producer(s)Jon Landau, Chuck Plotkin, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Van Zandt
Musician(s)Bruce Springsteen (vocals, lead guitar, acoustic guitar), Roy Bittan (piano, synthesizer), Clarence Clemons (saxophone, percussion), Danny Federici (organ, glockenspiel, piano), Gay Tallent (bass), Little Steven Van Zandt (rhythm guitar, mandolin, harmony vocals), Max Weinberg (drums)
Learn to playGuitar
AlbumBorn in the U.S.A

Music Video

Influences on Springsteen, Bruce & The E Street Band

Roy Orbison
Bob Dylan
Elvis Presley
The Band
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Woody Guthrie
James Brown

Influenced by Springsteen, Bruce & The E Street Band

Patti Scialfa
Tom Petty
John Mellencamp
Bruce Hornsby
Bon Jovi
Foo Fighters
U2
Pearl Jam
The Hold Steady
The Killers
Jesse Malin

Born in the U.S.A. Resources

Books

Eric Alterman, It Ain't No Sin To Be Glad You're Alive: The Promise of Bruce Springsteen (2001)
Eric Alterman is a somewhat polemical left-wing political commentator who also happens to be a huge Springsteen fan. Alterman's take on the meaning of the Boss is great stuff, whether or not you share his politics.

Rob Kirkpatrick, Magic in the Night: The Words and Music of Bruce Springsteen (2008)
This is a serious in-depth analysis of the lyrics that define the long span of Springsteen's career. A book that's rich with detail, it'll increase any fan's appreciation of the music.

Robert Santelli, Greetings from E Street: The Story of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (2006)
The best thing about this biography, which was produced with the cooperation of the band, is that it includes dozens of removable reproductions of old band memorabilia, including Bruce's first business card.

Jeffrey B. Symynkywicz, The Gospel According to Bruce Springsteen: Rock and Redemption, from Asbury Park to Magic (2008)
The author, a Harvard-trained minister and huge Springsteen fan, offers up a fascinating analysis of Springsteen's work as viewed through theological lenses.

Albums

18 Tracks (1999)
This compilation of rarities and B-sides is especially interesting to us because it includes the radically stripped-down, all-acoustic original version of "Born in the U.S.A." The more familiar chart-topping full-band version is probably a better song, but this one is haunting in its understated intensity.

Born in the U.S.A. (1984)
This is it, the multiplatinum album that made Bruce Springsteen the biggest force in American music in 1984. Anthemic cuts like the title track, "Glory Days," "My Hometown," and "Bobby Jean" remain huge crowd-pleasers today.

Nebraska (1982)
If Born in the U.S.A. records Springsteen at his arena-rocking, radio-friendly finest, this album captures a very different side of the artist. The sparse arrangements—usually just Springsteen's voice and an acoustic guitar—and the harrowing lyrics result in a bleak, even haunting, record. You won't soon forget the desperate stories told in "Reason to Believe," "Johnny 99," or "Atlantic City."

Images

Born in the U.S.A. Tour
This shot of Springsteen on stage was taken during the 1984 Born in the U.S.A. tour.

Born in the U.S.A. Album Cover
This famous image, shot by renowned photographer Annie Liebowitz, became one of the most iconic album covers in the history of rock and roll.

Movies & TV

Live in Dublin: Bruce Springsteen with the Sessions Band (2007)
In 2006, Springsteen released The Seeger Sessions, an unusual album full of folk songs performed more in hootenanny style than in Springsteen's more familiar brand of rock and roll.This Dublin concert captured the Sessions Band in its Americana-drenched glory, performing both the folk songs from the Seeger Sessions and radically re-worked Springsteen classics like "Atlantic City."

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band—Live in New York City (2001)
The E Street Band's stadium-rocking live performances are legendary. This DVD shows why.

Websites

Bruce Springsteen's Official Website
The Boss' official site is one of the better official musician sites out there and is a great resource for lyrics and album art in particular.

Backstreets
Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce has a huge legion of fans all around the world. Backstreets is their go-to virtual gathering place, and home to some of the most engaged and informed E Street Band commentary around.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Bruce Springsteen
Springsteen's official home at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame offers a nice brief biography.

Rolling Stone and Bruce Springsteen
America's premier music magazine opens up its archives to offer a wealth of Springsteen material dating back more than three decades. Plus, there's a great biography.

Video & Audio

"Born in the U.S.A." Music Video
Sit back, watch, and listen to the song of the hour.