When it comes to Bruce Springsteen’s lyrics, I could drone on and on, but I decided to do all of us a favor, and only highlight a small handful of some of his insightful lines (with a bit of my own interpretation as well).
When Springsteen was asked what he thought of his 1978 Darkness On the Edge Of Town album, he conveyed that there were things he’d do differently, things that he heard differently in the aftermath. “But in general, I think it’s an honest record, and that’s basically what I was trying to make,” he said. Ditto. And ditto for his other work as well. Here goes.
Someday, girl, I don’t know when, we’re gonna get to that place where we really wanna go, and we’ll walk in the sun. But till then, tramps like us, baby we were born to run. Born To Run
There might be a particular glamorization in running away, but maybe, there will come a time when you want to stand still and embrace connection. The character in “Born To Run” has a romantic vision of walking in sunlight (perhaps both literally and figuratively) with a girl who’s special and important to him.
Don’t run back inside, darlin,’ you know just what I’m here for. So you’re scared, and you’re thinking that maybe we ain’t that young anymore. Well show a little faith, there’s magic in the night. “Thunder Road”
With a chance to make it good somehow, hey, what else can we do now? Except roll down the window, and let the wind blow back your hair. Well, the night’s busting open, these two lanes can take us anywhere. We got one last chance to make it real, to trade in these wings on some wheels. Climb in back, heaven’s waiting down on the tracks. “Thunder Road”
It’s never really too late to ‘make it real’ and leap for a second chance. In “Thunder Road,” he wonders if it’s still feasible; they have the journey ahead of them to figure it out.
Tonight I’ll be on that hill ‘cause I can’t stop, I’ll be on that hill with everything I got. With lives on the line, where dreams are found and lost, I’ll be there on time, and I’ll pay the cost for wanting things that can only be found in the darkness on the edge of town. Darkness On The Edge Of Town
Facing our challenges could be more painful than running away (which is what the previous Born To Run album spoke so fluidly about), but it also may be absolutely necessary in order to move on. This is the climatic peak of the song, where he tells us what’s at stake. He’ll be on that hill because that’s where he needs to go to confront himself.
Blow away the dreams that tear you apart, blow away the dreams that break your heart, blow away the lies that leave you nothing, but lost and broken hearted. – “The Promised Land”
Undertones of despair and hardship are embedded in these lines, but hope isn’t completely lost once resilience can be fostered. “You had to lose your illusion (of adult life), while at the same time holding onto a sense of possibility,” Springsteen noted in the documentary, The Promise: The Making Of Darkness On The Edge Of Town.
Maybe you’ll be out there on that road somewhere, in some bus or train, traveling along. In some motel room there’ll be a radio playing, and you’ll hear me sing this song. Well if you do, you’ll know I’m thinking of you and all the miles in between. And I’m just calling one last time, not to change your mind, but just to say I miss you, baby. Good luck, good bye, Bobby Jean. “Bobby Jean”
“Bobby Jean” always touched my heart space; sometimes you have to let certain relationships go. Maybe there was a subtle, quiet ending, where you naturally drift apart, or maybe a poignant shift occurred. Regardless, you can still always wish them your very best. “Bobby Jean” is known to be about Springsteen’s band mate and close friend, Steve Van Zandt, who was separating from the E- Street gang at that time.
It’s not that nursery mouth I came back for, it’s not the way you’re stretched out on the floor, ‘cause I’ve broken all your windows, and I’ve rammed through all your doors, and who am I to ask you to lick my sores, and you should know that’s true. I came for you, for you, I came for you. “For You”
Sometimes, we experience love that’s so stripped-down and raw, it shakes us at our core. The character in “For You” tragically expresses what it’s like to undeniably love someone; someone who isn’t well. Yet, he wants all of her anyway.
You can ride this road till dawn without another human being in sight. Just kids wasted on something in the night. “Something In The Night”
These lines capture an essence of purity – a ‘living in the moment’ snapshot. I’ve noticed that Springsteen often writes about the night. According to the science-fiction writer, Ray Bradbury, it’s those late night/early morning hours when the soul is the most vulnerable.
So much has happened to me that I don’t understand. All I can think of is being five years-old, following behind you at the beach, tracing your footprints in the sand, trying to walk like a man. “Walk Like A Man”
Such moving sentiments, right? There’s something to be said for people who (personally and powerfully) impact our lives. This pretty tune reflects Springsteen’s relationship with his father. When you look at me, you better look hard and look twice; is that me, baby, or just a brilliant disguise? Tonight our bed is cold, lost in the darkness of our love. God have mercy on a man, who doubts what he’s sure of. “Brilliant Disguise”
Are we doing what’s expected of us, or are we being authentic? “You play the loving the woman, I’ll play the faithful man,” the song echoes. It’s evident in “Brilliant Disguise” that this relationship is not what is genuinely desired; there’s a strong yearning for an answer that makes sense.
You can’t start a fire sitting around, crying over a broken heart. This gun’s for hire, even if we’re just dancing in the dark. “Dancing In The Dark”
Even if you are just dancing in the dark, in the unknown, the uncertain space, it’s okay. Even if you just endured a bit of suffering or heartbreak, it’s okay. Life goes on, and you have the power to cultivate that change. “Dancing in The Dark” is one of Springsteen’s inspirational ‘get up and go’ tracks, encouraging us to breathe new life into our veins.