Shut Out the Lights
Written by Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A, is a musical hit wildly misunderstood. Taken as a patriotic jingle, even Ronald Reagan referenced the song for nationalism in his campaign. Unbeknownest to him, and many others of time, Springsteen was singing sorrowfully for the pains of American working-class men and the effects of Vietnam.
I will be analyzing a lesser known song, written by Springsteen, in response to Vietnam. Shut Out the Lights was released in 1988. Click the link below to view the You Tube video.
In the first verse, Springsteen, with his poignant melody, describes a lone character returning home from the Vietnam war. This character is reunited with a former lover. The woman is eluded to raising her children alone, in a reference to her mother helping with childcare. This is a response to the effects of war on family. Following the encounter, paralyzed and sleepless, the protagonist is depicted as fearful and longing for security in the night. The repetition of “Don’t turn out the lights” illustrates the fears and lasting effects of the tragedies of war on soldiers returning home.
The next verse is a response to the financial insecurieties of the working-class upon returning. Mother is welcoming and banners are hung and “his pa said he was sure they would give him his job back at the factory.” The work itself is laboring, a common entry level position which many of those fighting the war held. A point about the relationship between the war and the nation it was serving.
In his final verse, Springsteen addresses the fears of the men who are in “the jungle” staring at an unknown river dreaming of other places. Again, yearning for comfort and stuck in fear.
Springsteen shows the negative effects of war on family, lovers and security and how these scars are carried from the battlefield home.
- Below is a link to an acoustic version of Born in the USA. Not part of my artistic analysis, this is just an interesting version of the song, sung in a more somber tone, the true meaning becomes more apparent.
- Born in the U.S.A. By Bruce Springsteen