What is Bruce Springsteen’s song “The River” about?


By listening to the music of Bruce Springsteen, you can tell that he takes a lot of inspiration from the things that are close to his heart. He might have had a hungry heart to escape once, but Springsteen always wrote songs that paid homage to his hometown, Freehold, New Jersey (and surrounding areas, including Asbury Park), and his family. . Her song “The River”, the title track from her fifth studio album, is a perfect example.

Bruce Springsteen | Ross Marino / Getty Images

Bruce Springsteen’s “The River” talks about his sister

According to the New York Times, Springsteen’s “The River” is about how “a teenage couple who give up on their dreams because she gets pregnant” talks about her sister, Virginia, who is still married to the song’s boyfriend. .

“The River” is one of Springsteen’s darker tracks. In the lyrics, Springsteen speaks from the point of view of Virginia’s boyfriend (Mary, in song). He sings that he comes from the valley where he was taught to be like his father.

After meeting Mary in high school, they drove long drives to the river. Then he got Mary pregnant. “And for my nineteenth birthday. I have a union card and a wedding coat. We went down to the courthouse. And the judge stopped everything. No smiles on the wedding day, no walking down the aisle. No flowers, no wedding dress.

Later that same night, they returned to the river. Then his work in construction does not work because of the economy. “Now all of those things that seemed so important. Well, sir, they’ve vanished into thin air. Now I act like I don’t remember. And Mary acts like she doesn’t care.

Thinking back to better times, “come back to haunt me.” They haunt me like a curse. Is a dream a lie if it does not come true? Or is it something worse? When he returns to the river, everything is dried up.

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Springsteen once told a story about his father before playing the title song in concert

During a concert, Springsteen told an interesting story about his father. “When I was young, my dad and I used to go there all the time, almost everything,” Springsteen explained. “But I had very long hair, which fell way over my shoulders. I was seventeen or eighteen. Oh, man, he hated it. And we got to where we were arguing so much that I spent a lot of time outside the house.

“And finally, I had the courage to come home, and I stood there in the aisle, and he was waiting for me in the kitchen, and I tucked my hair up in my collar, and I walked in, and he was waiting for me in the kitchen. reminded me to sit with him, and the first thing he always asked me was what I thought I was doing with myself, and the worst part was I could never explain that to him.

“I remember having a motorcycle accident once, and I was laying on my bed, and he brought in a barber and cut my hair, and I remember telling him that I hated him and that I’ll never forget. And he was like, ‘Dude, I can’t wait for the army to catch you. When the army gets you, it will make you a man. They’re going to cut all that hair, and they’ll make a man out of you.

“And that was, I guess, in 1968, and there were a lot of guys from the neighborhood going to Vietnam… I remember that day I got my conscription notice, I hid it from my parents. , and three days before my physical exam me and my friends went out and we were up all night.

“We got on the bus to go that morning; we were all so scared. Then I went there and I failed. But I remember coming home after three days away and walking in the kitchen, and my mom and dad was setting there. My father said, “We were you? I said I went to get my physique. He said, “What happened? I said, ‘They didn’t take me.’ And he said, ‘That’s good.’

For years, Springsteen and his father never got along. His father thought he was wasting his life trying to become a musician. Maybe Douglas Springsteen, a hard worker, was jealous that his son was chasing his dreams, something he had always wanted to do but couldn’t because he had to support a family. He wanted Springsteen to get out of it. But he wasn’t ready to lose his son over it in a war. Eventually, Springsteen and his father resolved their relationship.

In “The River,” Springsteen wasn’t just talking about his sister and brother-in-law. In the lyrics, he spoke about all the people who have to give up their dreams to support a family, including people like his father.

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‘The River’ represents a place that never lets you down

Something Springsteen did very well was talk to the working class. “The River” is one of those songs that speaks to all those who have had to give up their dreams to support themselves or a family.

There is always a place like the river in the song for these people. When times were tough, there was always a place that never lets you down even when you’ve let yourself down, a place that doesn’t change even when you do. There is always a place that reminds you of better times, a place where you can dream.


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