Red, White, and Misused: How “Born in the U.S.A.” Became an Anthem for Everything That It Wasn’t

When Bruce Springsteen filmed the video for “Born in the U.S.A.,” gritty was the request. Director John Sayles, fresh off a movie about blue-collar Jersey guys, found it easy to fulfill. The song’s title track, a story of a Vietnam War vet returning to a country that failed him, resonated with Sayles. The catchy chorus mixed pride and anger, embodying survival in the face of adversity.

The video for “Born in the U.S.A.” juxtaposed concert footage with shots of ordinary Americans, factories, and soldiers. The imagery was a statement challenging the traditional view of American patriotism. Despite its deep message, many fans initially only saw it as a cool song.

Over the years, “Born in the U.S.A.” evolved into a protest song and a soaring anthem. However, its misuse by conservative figures, including U.S. presidents, overshadowed its true meaning. Springsteen’s refusal to endorse a political candidate reinforced his stance against the misappropriation of his music.

The practice of twisting pop music to fit various agendas is not new. Songs like “Born in the U.S.A.” and “This Land Is Your Land” have been co-opted for educational, political, and corporate purposes. Despite the misinterpretation, these songs continue to evoke strong emotions.

Springsteen’s commitment to veterans, reflected in his actions and lyrics, showcases his empathy for the struggles of everyday Americans. His refusal to compromise the integrity of his music for political gain underscores his dedication to authenticity.

As “Born in the U.S.A.” remains a powerful symbol, Springsteen’s legacy as a musician who champions the underdog and speaks truth to power endures. Despite attempts to appropriate his music for political gain, the essence of his message remains unchanged.