Bruce Springsteen and the duality of the ‘American Dream’

Bruce Springsteen is one of the greatest American storytellers. That is in the world of popular music. Like how the Beatles captured the raw energy and experiences of life living in the politically charged 1960s, Bruce Springsteen gives insight into the rough realities of American life like no other artist has been able to. Through analysis of his varied discography, we see Springsteen (alongside help from the E Street Band) paint the landscape of America that is littered with discarded and broken dreams for a better life and the heartbreak and consequences that come with that failure. The cast of characters in his songs acts as mouthpieces for Springsteen’s own grievances with the broken promises of success that America was supposed to be offering. These promises were and still are wrapped up in the perfect, cookie-cutter rhetoric of what is known as the “American Dream”. In the case of Springsteen’s songs, the definition of the ‘American Dream’ is malleable. The success that anyone aspires to achieve in life can be in some way constructed into their own version of the American Dream. Through his songs, particularly the ones recorded for the albums, Born to Run (1975) and Darkness of the Edge of Town (1978), Bruce Springsteen lays out a vision of the United States that contradicts the trope of the “American Dream”. The album, Born to Run, first released in 1975, is what some consider to be Springsteen’s magnum opus. Every song of the album from the opener on side one, “Thunder Road”, to the closer on the second side, “Jungleland”, is a portrayal of characters on the journey of trying to achieve their journey of the American Dream. Yet through these songs, Bruce Springsteen is exposing the duality of what the American Dream is idealized to be counteracted by the truth or the harsh reality of what that dream really means and for who those dreams truly exist for. In Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen was attempting to demonstrate that the myth of the American Dream creates a false sense of hope and the reality of it is that so few people actually attain it. Continue reading

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