Born 40 Years Ago Today!: A Look at Bruce Springsteen’s Legendary Album ‘Born in the U.S.A.’

Bruce Springsteen was already one of the premier rock stars and most-lauded singer/songwriters on the planet when he released his seventh studio effort, Born in the U.S.A., 40 years ago, on June 4, 1984. The album catapulted the Boss into superstardom and would become the most successful record he’s ever released.

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Springsteen recorded the songs for Born in the U.S.A. over the course of about two years. Many of the tunes were written at the same time he wrote and recorded songs for his acclaimed, stripped-down 1982 album Nebraska.

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In April 1982, he teamed up with the E Street Band to record studio demos of the songs he’d been writing, then decided that some of them worked better in their original demo form. These were the ones he chose to release on the Nebraska album.

Springsteen continued to write and record songs throughout 1982 and 1983, and into early 1984, amassing between 70 and 90 tracks.

About the Album’s Title Track

One song he wrote was inspired by Vietnam veterans’ experiences after returning home from the war. Around that time, filmmaker Paul Schrader had sent Springsteen a script for a movie he wanted Bruce to write songs for about blue-collar siblings who play in a band together. The film’s working title was Born in the U.S.A., and Springsteen wound up using it as the title for his Vietnam-themed tune.

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“Born in the U.S.A.” would become perhaps one of the Boss’ most misunderstood songs. The lyrics paint a dark picture of a veteran’s struggles after his traumatic time in Vietnam, although the tune was embraced by many as a patriotic anthem.

Incidentally, Schrader’s film eventually was released in 1987 as Light of Day. Springsteen wrote the movie’s title track.

About “Dancing in the Dark”

Shortly before Springsteen put together the final track list for Born in the U.S.A., his manager, Jon Landau, told him he thought the album still needed a single.

“That evening I wrote ‘Dancing in the Dark,’” Springsteen recalled in his 2016 memoir, Born to Run. He described the tune as his “song about alienation, fatigue and desire to get out from inside the studio, my room, my record, my head and … live.” According to the Boss, “Dancing in the Dark” was one of his “most well-crafted and heartfelt pop songs.”

“Dancing in the Dark” was released as the lead single of Born in the U.S.A. in May of 1984. It became his biggest hit, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The song’s success was boosted by a music video that featured Springsteen performing the tune live. The clip famously features Bruce inviting a female fan from the audience to dance with him onstage. That fan, of course, was portrayed by a pre-fame Courteney Cox.

In 1985, Springsteen won a Grammy in the Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male category for “Dancing in the Dark.”

The Other Hit Singles from Born in the U.S.A.

“Dancing in the Dark” was the first of seven songs released as singles from the album, all of which reached the Top 10 of the Hot 100.

The others were, in order of release, “Cover Me” (No. 7), “Born in the U.S.A.” (No. 9), “I’m on Fire” (No. 6), “Glory Days” (No. 5), “I’m Goin’ Down” (No. 9), and “My Hometown” (No. 6).

Born in the U.S.A. Chart and Sales Success

Born in the U.S.A. reached the top of the Billboard 200 on July 7, 1984, and spent four weeks at No. 1 before being replaced by Prince’s Purple Rain soundtrack. Purple Rain then took over the top spot for an amazing 24 weeks. On January 19, 1985, Born in the U.S.A. returned to No. 1 the Billboard 200 and held the top spot for three more weeks.

Born in the U.S.A. became Billboard’s top-ranked album for 1985. The album has sold more than 17 million copies in the U.S., and an estimated 30 million worldwide. It’s easily Springsteen’s most successful release.

Born in the U.S.A. was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2012.

Born in the U.S.A. 40th Anniversary Reissue

As previously reported, Springsteen will be releasing a special 40th anniversary Born in the U.S.A. vinyl reissue on June 14. The LP is pressed on translucent-red vinyl, and is housed in a gatefold sleeve.

The album will come with a lithograph and a booklet featuring archival material and new liner notes. You can pre-order the LP now.

Born in the U.S.A. Track List:

Side One

  1. “Born in the U.S.A.”
  2. “Cover Me”
  3. “Darlington County”
  4. “Working on the Highway”
  5. “Downbound Train”
  6. “I’m on Fire”

Side Two

  1. “No Surrender”
  2. “Bobby Jean”
  3. “I’m Goin’ Down”
  4. “Glory Days”
  5. “Dancing in the Dark”
  6. “My Hometown”

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