MY QUICK ANALYSIS. Totally off the cuff, as I listen to and watch the video, and think to myself “what does it mean,” to me at least. Complete lyrics, with a few typos, is here: LyricsFreak.
I’ve been knockin’ on the door that holds the throne.
I’ve been lookin’ for the map that leads me home.
I’ve been stumblin’ on good hearts turned to stone.
The road of good intentions has gone dry as bone.
ANALYSIS: When he was young, he believed in America and what — he/we thought — it stood for. He thinks it’s possible to make that dream come true, or at least make things better, or at least make them stop getting worse. One of the ways he’s trying to bring about change is through his music and fame and using the unique platform it gives him. The song itself is part of that.
From Chicago to New Orleans.
From the muscle to the bone.
From the shotgun shack to the Super Dome.
There ain’t “help,” the cavalry stayed home.
There ain’t no one hearing the bugle blowin’.
ANALYSIS: He thought America was about coming to the aid of people in need…. other people, not “our own”. But it seems that doesn’t happen so much these days. “We” take care of our own. “We” are selfish. “We” are uncaring. He wants us to see that, not like it, and take action to change it. That means standing up for each other, for other people, not ourselves.
Where’re the eyes, the eyes with the will to see.
Where’re the hearts, that run over with mercy.
Where’s the love that has not forsaken me.
Where’s the work that set my hands, my soul free.
Where’s the spirit that’ll reign, reign over me.
Where’s the promise, from sea to shining sea.
Where’s the promise, from sea to shining sea.
ANALYSIS: This continues the sentiment of the previous section, with an emphasis on what exactly is missing. The eyes (open them), the hearts (open them), the love (give it), the work (do it), the spirit (feel it), the promise (live it), and the upholding of that promise (keep it).
Where is it, people? That’s the home he is seeking, the American dream, something to be proud of, which is helping other people. (NOTE: It’s actually not the “American” dream, it’s a universal dream and America just happens to be, I hope, one of the ones who has it.)
During that segment of the video, we see a poster on a bus stop in New York City. The poster is about caring, and more importantly acting on that caring, and inspiring others (children, in the case of the poster).
At the end of the song, the darkness lifts and color returns. We see people walking together for the first time in the video, together as one, and Bruce is in the crowd (the crowd even has one guy in a suit and tie).
He is an inspiration, but standing with us, not above us or apart with us. He may be rich in terms of money, but Bruce is part of the 99%. He cares. So should you. He’s taking action. So should you. We are the road home.
That’s what the song means to me.
UPDATE #1 (2012-2-11): My friend Suzy saw this and mentioned that Bruce recently wrote the forward to a photo/story book by Washington Post photographer Michael Williamson and writer Dale Maharidge, both Pulitzer Prize winners. Read and see some photos here: “Bruce Springsteen on ‘Someplace Like America.’” See and hear one of the authors talk about the book, it’s people, places, and more: “The True Life Story Behind His Song The New Timer”: http://youtu.be/JEEE8zmntEU.
UPDATE #2 (2012-2-17): “Bruce Springsteen: ‘What was done to my country was un-American’ The Boss explains why there is a critical, questioning and angry patriotism at the heart of his new album Wrecking Ball”: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/feb/17/bruce-springsteen-wrecking-ball
UPDATE #3 (2012-10-8): Today I was talking with a friend about Neil Young’s new album “Americana” and protest songs came up and punk rock came up. which prompted me to wander over the the DC Hardcore page on Wikipedia to reminisce about the early middle 1980s in Washington, DC, my hometown. was a teenager there in the ’80s and saw shows by Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, Slickee Boys, and multiple others. It was am absolutely amazing time period for music and me (amazing in “good” and “bad” ways, but ways that defined me and carry through my life from those days forward). Here are two things I have written about the time period (so far). There’s lots of other stuff, too (including things that were covered nationally). Wild days. 1) Audio From My First Protest “Rock Against Reagan“; 2) “Brokedown Palace“. Also, since Henry Rollins came up in talking with Henrik (former teacher of mine who is currently going through a punk-rock revival), if you like him and the scene from back in the day, I highly recommend “American Hardcore” (The History of American Punk Rock 1980-1986). Here is one of the trailers on YouTube (there are others). What Henry Rollins said at the end is absolutely true: The stories from those days sound made up… but they’re true. I want to get mine written down before I forget them. Problem is there are so many and they can really only come out in full bloom through exploration with the friends who were in them, at least the friends who are still on this side of the grass, because a lot of them have departed this world (RIP, I love you and miss you).