Bruce Springsteen – The River

My friend Dave from A Sound Day wanted some bloggers to pick a song that has lyrics that we liked or can relate to. He stated, “I just want you to pick one song that you think has fantastic lyrics, or one you like because of the lyrics, and say a bit about why you love it.”

I went through many songs to get to this one. Dylan songs mostly before I realized this one hit home. This was the title track to Bruce’s 1980 double album. I picked this song because it is so easy to relate to. I’ve known friends who have lived this song. This is not a party starter song by any stretch of the imagination. The lyrics are downright sad because they are so damn real. It contains one of my favorite Springsteen lines “And for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat.

I grew up in a small town with a population of around a thousand or so at the time. The jobs there were dead-end jobs and the pay was even worse. I saw a cycle even at an early age by seeing parents and their kids doing the same thing generation after generation. Nothing wrong with that but they hated doing what they were doing. It was enough inspiration for me to explore and find new things…and to get out. Some of my friends never made it out. They are doing now what they swore they wouldn’t do before.

I saw my sister get into the same position as the Mary character in the song. It ended many years later in a divorce but at least she is happy now so there are good endings. Her son was the best thing that happened to her. The funny thing is I ended up moving back near that town but I’m doing what I want to be doing not in a job or rut that I hate. Some of my friends are not in that position.

I came to realize…it wasn’t the location at all. It was and still is a nice small town…no that wasn’t it. It was the expectations at the time set upon every one that made it seem pre-ordained for bad choices to happen.

The wedding in the song relates to Springsteen’s sister, who got married when she was still a teenager. She knew it was about her and her husband the first time she heard it. It was also based on conversations Springsteen had with his brother-in-law. After losing his construction job, he worked hard to support his wife and young child but never complained.

The song’s lyrics are outstanding. Even the opening lines are so close to how I grew up. I did grow up in a valley. “I come from down in the valley,
Where mister when you’re young, They bring you up to do like your daddy done.” So it’s easy to relate to.

Bruce saves the best for last though. He is talking about the dreams we have when we are younger about what we are going to do in life until life wakes us up with a bang…at least that is what I interrupt.

Now those memories come back to haunt me
They haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
Or is it something worse

The song didn’t chart in America or Canada but did make it to #35 in the UK. The album was #1 in the Billboard album charts, #1 in Canada, and #2 in the UK.

The River

I come from down in the valley
Where mister when you’re young
They bring you up to do like your daddy done
Me and Mary we met in high school
When she was just seventeen
We’d ride out of that valley down to where the fields were green

We’d go down to the river
And into the river we’d dive
Oh down to the river we’d ride

Then I got Mary pregnant
And man that was all she wrote
And for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat
We went down to the courthouse
And the judge put it all to rest
No wedding day smiles no walk down the aisle
No flowers no wedding dress

That night we went down to the river
And into the river we’d dive
Oh down to the river we did ride

I got a job working construction for the Johnstown Company
But lately there ain’t been much work on account of the economy
Now all them things that seemed so important
Well mister they vanished right into the air
Now I just act like I don’t remember
Mary acts like she don’t care

But I remember us riding in my brother’s car
Her body tan and wet down at the reservoir
At night on them banks I’d lie awake
And pull her close just to feel each breath she’d take
Now those memories come back to haunt me
They haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
Or is it something worse
That sends me down to the river
Though I know the river is dry
That sends me down to the river tonight
Down to the river
My baby and I
Oh down to the river we ride

Bruce Springsteen – Independence Day

But they can’t touch me now
And you can’t touch me now
They ain’t gonna do to me
What I watched them do to you

Great song by Bruce Springsteen that was written and recorded in 1977 for the Darkness on the Edge of Town album…but Bruce later included it on The River. They Ain’t Gonna Do To Me What I Watched Them Do To You. Lines like this keep me coming back to Bruce. This is one of the strongest songs on that album and one of my favorites of Springsteen.

According to Bruce’s autobiography and his song introduction, this song is about Springsteen’s relationship with his dad. They didn’t get along, but later in life, Bruce realized his father worked very hard to support his family and came to appreciate his efforts. Bruce can also thank his dad for inspiring the rebellious spirit that led him to follow his dreams. Determined not to work a typical factory type job like his dad, Springsteen followed his dreams and made music for a living.

Bruce Springsteen: “I could never talk to my old man, he could never talk to me, my mother couldn’t talk to him. So I was glad when I finally got old enough and I started to live alone. Then for about ten years I never saw my folks that much. And just recently we came back from Europe and I got a phone call a night or two later that my father had gotten sick.

I went out to California where he was in the hospital there. I started thinkin’ on the way about all the things that I always wanted to say to him and I never said and I always figured, well, someday we’ll sit down and we’ll talk about why it was the way it was when I was young, talk about why he felt the way he did. But the years go by and it never comes up. I guess it feels like a dangerous subject or something. But he got sick and I realized that he was gettin’ old and that if I had somethin’ to say to him, I should say it now.”

 

 

Independence Day

Well Papa go to bed now it’s getting late
Nothing we can say is gonna change anything now
I’ll be leaving in the morning from Saint Mary’s Gate
We wouldn’t change this thing even if we could somehow
‘Cause the darkness of this house has got the best of us
There’s a darkness in this town that’s got us too
But they can’t touch me now
And you can’t touch me now
They ain’t gonna do to me
What I watched them do to you

So say goodbye it’s Independence Day
It’s Independence Day
All down the line
Just say goodbye it’s Independence Day
It’s Independence Day this time

Now I don’t know what it always was with us
We chose the words, and yeah, we drew the lines
There was just no way this house could hold the two of us
I guess that we were just too much of the same kind

Well say goodbye it’s Independence Day
It’s Independence Day all boys must run away
So say goodbye it’s Independence Day
All men must make their way come Independence Day

Now the rooms are all empty down at Frankie’s joint
And the highway she’s deserted down to Breaker’s Point
There’s a lot of people leaving town now
Leaving their friends, their homes
At night they walk that dark and dusty highway all alone

Well Papa go to bed now it’s getting late
Nothing we can say can change anything now
Because there’s just different people coming down here now
And they see things in different ways
And soon everything we’ve known will just be swept away

So say goodbye it’s Independence Day
Papa now I know the things you wanted that you could not say
But won’t you just say goodbye it’s Independence Day
I swear I never meant to take those things away

 

 

Bruce Springsteen – Hungry Heart 1980

Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack
I went out for a ride and I never went back
Like a river that don’t know where it’s flowing
I took a wrong turn and I just kept going

It’s hard to beat that as an opening verse…once I heard that I was hooked. Springsteen met Joey Ramone in Asbury Park, New Jersey, Ramone asked Bruce to write a song for his band, The Ramones. Springsteen wrote “Hungry Heart” that night but decided to keep it.

Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (Flo and Eddie) of The Turtles sang backup.

The song was on the album The River. The album peaked a #1 in the Billboard Album Charts in 1980. Hungry Heart peaked at #5 in the Billboard 100 in 1980. This was Springsteen’s first top 10 hit.

Bruce Springsteen: “I saw the Ramones in Asbury Park,”  “and we were talking for a while and I was like, ‘Man I’ve got to write the Ramones a song.’ So I went home and I sat at my table and I wrote it in about the time it took me to sing it. I brought it in and we went to make a demo for it or I played it for [Johnny Ramone], and he said, ‘Nah, you better keep that one.’ He was right about that. It did pretty well.”

 

From Songfacts

This was Springsteen’s first Top 10 hit. Born To Run was a big album five years earlier, but did not have any hit singles. This song proved that Springsteen could not just sell concert tickets and albums, but could record hit pop songs. 

This song explores a man’s wanderlust contrasted with his desire for a stable family life. Many of Springsteen’s songs are about wanting to get away, and in this song the main character concludes that he does not want to be alone.

Springsteen’s voice was slightly sped up on the recording, producing a higher vocal. Bob Dylan did the same thing on “Lay Lady Lay.” 

This was used in the Tom Cruise movie Risky Business. It was the first time a Springsteen song was used in a film.

In the 1981 Rolling Stone reader’s poll, this was voted best single. Springsteen also won for Best Artist, Album, and Male Singer.

Bruce has the audience sing the first verse and chorus when he performs this live.

The single was backed with “Held Up Without A Gun.” This started a tradition of using songs that did not appear on his albums as B-sides.

This went to #28 when it was Reissued in England in 1995. The first time it was released it only went to #44.

Springsteen performed this with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at Young’s first annual Bridge School benefit concert in 1986.

Hungry Heart

Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack
I went out for a ride and I never went back
Like a river that don’t know where it’s flowing
I took a wrong turn and I just kept going

Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody’s got a hungry heart

I met her in a Kingstown bar
We fell in love I knew it had to end
We took what we had and we ripped it apart
Now here I am down in Kingstown again

Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody’s got a hungry heart

Everybody needs a place to rest
Everybody wants to have a home
Don’t make no difference what nobody says
Ain’t nobody like to be alone

Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody’s got a hungry heart