Bruce Springsteen – “We Take Care of Our Own”

Almost 30 years ago, Bruce Springsteen released what would become one of the biggest selling albums in history, Born In The USA. Little did he know, he was also releasing one of the most misunderstood anthems in history with the title track. “Born in the USA” was a thundering, screaming, angry shout out to those left feeling disenfranchised by the country they call home ten years after the messiness of the Vietnam war. But for most people who weren’t able to give four and a half minutes of attention to the lyrics, it was merely a fist-pumping exercise in blind patriotism. A few years after it’s release, Springsteen mostly stopped playing the full band version of the song, opting instead for a more raw, hard to miss the point, bluesy acoustic arrangement.

So I find it interesting that, now 30 years later, Bruce has released something so great and yet so poised to be misunderstood as his latest single “We Take Care of Our Own”.  Let me first say it clearly – this is a great song.  Yes, I’m a honk for The Boss.  But I love the steady, pulsing beat of this song.  It opens with a banging drum and wailing siren-like sound that grabs your attention.  And that kick doesn’t stop from start to finish.  I can imagine this right along side “Badlands” in concert.  Springsteen sings with an urgent plea that begs you to listen.  The music soars and lifts you up.  Hearing this song makes you feel good.  Really good!  I get positively energized when I listen!  It should be all over the radio, but won’t be because program director’s are afraid of a 60-year-old making music this good.

But let’s get back to that urgent plea for a minute.

As with “Born In The USA”, it’s easy to hear what you want in this song if you don’t stop and really pay attention.  Quickly heard phrases like “Wherever this flag is flown”, “from sea to shining sea”, “hearts that run over with mercy”, and even the oft-repeated title “We take care of our own”, can give feelings of national pride and create the sense that this is a feel good “hey, we’re starting to get it right” kind of song.

Wrong.

“We Take Care of Our Own” is not a self-congratulating pat on the back.  It is an indictment against a pervasive attitude in our country that it’s okay to just circle up in our own little tribe, whether it’s based on politics, religion, race, or socio-economic status, and just take care of your own.  There are references to the debacle that followed hurricane Katrina, when we as a nation certainly failed to take care of our own on a larger scale, but we also saw it played out to horrific and deadly results on smaller scales in and around New Orleans in the days following that disaster.  And we just seemed to stand by and watch it play out.

“There ain’t no help, the cavalry stayed home.  There ain’t no one hearing the bugle blowin’.  We take care of our own.”

Closer examination of the lyrics I mentioned earlier reveals Bruce asking “Where are the hearts that run over with mercy?” and “Where’s the promise from sea to shining sea?”.  These and other questions are asking, essentially, what happened to us?  When did we start turning our back so easily on each other?  Yes, we have differences.  But isn’t that part of what makes this country great?

“where’er the eyes, the eyes with the will to see?  Where are the hearts that run over with mercy?  Where’s the love that has not forsaken me?  Where’s the work that’ll set my hands, my soul free?  Where’s the spirit that’ll reign, rain over me?  Where’s the promise from sea to shining sea?”.

Click here to listen to “We Take Care of our Own”. 

This is not rah-rah.  But if you don’t know that, it feels like it.  And Bruce has been down this road before.  But now, I think he is almost daring us to miss the point this time.  Don’t we know better?  And that’s kind of the larger point of this song.  Don’t we know better?  Take care of each other!  Not just ourselves, or only those who look, think, and act like us.  We’re better than that.

I can’t wait to hear what else The Boss has been up to when his new album is released in March.  This is a really strong start.

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~ by themattmorrisshow on January 27, 2012.

One Response to “Bruce Springsteen – “We Take Care of Our Own””

  1. […] to my buddy Matt Morris for setting me straight on the purpose of “We Take Care of our Own.” Turns out it functions as the […]

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