The Stars of Stage and Screen…Song #15/250: The Streets of Philadelphia by Bruce Springsteen from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the Film, Philadelphia.

These are the stories behind the most memorable songs from Hollywood movies and Broadway musicals.

The movie, Philadelphia, was released in the early 1990s. It starred Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington as the two main characters. The soundtrack to the movie contained original work by the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young. That so many heavy hitters from their respective industries were involved in this movie project speaks to the larger intent behind which the movie was made in the first place. Director Jonathan Demme wanted to make a movie that would take a ground-level look at the AIDS crisis in America. Demme knew that the story of a Gay man dying of AIDS would be a tough sell for certain segments of the population so he enlisted people to support his project such as Springsteen, Washington, Young and Hanks who, he felt, would be a big enough draw based on name recognition alone to reach as broad an audience with his message as possible. That message included important information about how AIDS was actually transmitted and how much homophobia came into play in further exacerbating this painful life experience for so many Americans. Philadelphia went on to be nominated for several Academy Awards including wins for Best Actor for Hanks and Best Song for Springsteen.

The plot of Philadelphia unfolds just as the AIDS epidemic had begun to play out in America. In the 1980s, AIDS was sweeping through the US. It was a disease that was considered by some as God’s punishment against homosexuals because, for the most part, those who were contracting AIDS were Gay men. As such, in addition to the fear of an unknown disease that many Americans faced, there was the added element of homophobia that was thrown into the mix. The result of this was that those who contracted AIDS suffered physically, as the disease ravaged their bodies but, as well, they suffered emotionally and mentally due to a campaign of ostracization that took place all across the US. For many AIDS patients, during a time in their lives when they were most in need of compassion and companionship, many found themselves the object of panic and disgust. In the end, many AIDS patients died alone and lonely.

Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington in a court scene from the movie, Philadelphia.

In the movie, Tom Hanks played a young Gay lawyer who contracts AIDS. All throughout this career at the law firm he was working at, he hid his sexual orientation from his employers and colleagues. Then, one day a lesion appears on his forehead. A colleague accuses Hanks of having AIDS because he associated the one lesion with the disease. Not long after this incident at work, Hanks is fired for “incompetence”. Hanks believes he was fired because of his sexual orientation and because of AIDS so he decides to sue the law firm for wrongful dismissal. As Hanks begins assembling his court case, we begin to see some of the obstacles that AIDS patients faced at the time. For starters, no lawyer is willing to take on his case because they are all afraid of catching AIDS just by being with him. Hanks eventually asks Denzel Washington’s character, a fellow lawyer, for help. Washington refuses because he is fearful of getting too close. But then, a few days later, Washington sees Hanks in a law library as he attempts to conduct some research into his case. Washington watches as those around Hanks all move away from him and how Hanks is urged to work in an isolated room, away from public view. Denzel Washington’s character recognizes discrimination at play because he, himself, had experienced it as a black man in America. So, Denzel Washington agrees to represent Hanks in his suit. Needless to say, the journey of discovery that Denzel Washington takes as he learns about how AIDS is actually transmitted is the journey of discovery that Director Jonathan Demme was hoping all of America would take. In the end, Washington and Hanks become close friends and we all get to see the humanity at play as Tom Hanks progresses through the various stages of this terrible disease. Humanizing Aids sufferers, helping to destigmatize those who contracted AIDS, as well as homosexuality, in general were all part of why Philadelphia was made in the first place.

Bruce Springsteen walks alone through the streets of Philadelphia in the video that opened the movie.

The soundtrack to this movie is stellar. In addition to the songs written by Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, there is music from Peter Gabriel, Sade, Indigo Girls, Maria Callas and even one hit wonders, The Spin Doctors! As with most movies, the music involved adds another layer of meaning to the story. In the specific case of the Bruce Springtsteen song, “The Streets of Philadelphia”, the story is that Demme asked Springsteen to contribute a song that would act as the opening of the film. At first, Springsteen was reluctant to do so because he had not had much experience scoring films but he agreed to at least give it a try. Springsteen’s version of a try was the song, “The Streets of Philadelphia”. In this song, Springsteen casts himself in the role of the AIDS sufferer. He describes the effects of AIDS on his body…how his clothes don’t fit him anymore because he is losing weight, how his appearance is changing and, as a result, is making him “unrecognizable to himself” but mostly, Springsteen describes how alone he feels as the rest of society distances itself from him in his hour of greatest need. Demme is on record as saying that when Springsteen submitted his “rough draft” of the song, he and his wife listened to it and cried. That rough draft was kept and is the track that was recorded and put onto the film’s soundtrack album. Not only did Bruce Springsteen win the Academy Award for Best Song but, “The Streets of Philadelphia” also won four Grammy Awards for Springsteen, too.

Princess Diana shakes hands with an unidentified AIDS patient in what turned out to be one of the most important and influential images ever in the battle against the disease of AIDS.

If you have seen Philadelphia then you know that it is a movie that is not easy to watch all of the way through. But, sometimes it is important for the general public to be asked to keep watching and to not turn away. As unpleasant as the death process can be and as ugly as racism and homophobia can also be, if we are ever to become a more empathetic and tolerant society then, watching movies such as Philadelphia is a must. There are many who point to Philadelphia as a turning point in the public battle against AIDS. After watching such respected actors as Hanks and Washington on screen and listening to such respected musicians like Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young, the tone of the public discourse surrounding AIDS changed for the better. AIDS victims were less isolated and feared, it became easier to raise much needed funds for research and it suddenly became a badge of honour to participate in AIDS marches and to wear “ribbons” of support while in public. But, as we know, there are diseases of the medical kind and diseases of the spiritual kind and the battle remains ongoing. Sometimes, the most important direct action we can take is to be brave and not look away.

The link to the video for the song, “The Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Philadelphia” by Neil Young can be found here.

***This song plays over the closing scene in the movie which is the wake of Tom Hanks’ character. For my money, this is one of the best closing scenes of any movie. I always bawl whenever I watch it. It is devastating! Neil Young’s haunting song is perfect.

The link to the video for the trailer to the movie, Philadelphia can be found here.

For more information about ongoing efforts to cure Aids in Canada, the link to the official website for Canadian AIDS Society can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this blog post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post can be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022 tommacinneswriter.com

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #184: Born In The USA by Bruce Springsteen.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #184: Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen.

Any list of the best or biggest selling or most popular songs of the 1980s always includes Bruce Springsteen’s biggest selling single of all-time, “Born in the USA” from the album of the same name. That album spawned seven Top Ten singles, sold thirty million copies worldwide and helped elevate Springsteen, from his cult-like early career status, all the way to the very top of the music pecking order in the US. However, as is often the case with songs such as this, that literally drape themselves in the American flag, there is a lot of emotion and, at times, misconception that accompany “Born in the USA”. For me, I really enjoy this song because of the clever point Springsteen makes by structuring the song as he does. But, there is even more to talk about than that so, let’s get down to the business of telling the incredible story of “Born in the USA” by “The Boss”, Bruce Springsteen.

Bruce Springsteen is a wonderful songwriter. Much of his song catalogue features his creative takes on the lives of ordinary, working class people. For anyone paying attention, his politics have always been pretty plain to see. He has always been on the side of those who work hard for their paycheque. Along wth other singers such as John Mellencamp and Bob Seger, for example, Springsteen has been dubbed the leader of a genre of Rock music known as “Heartland Rock” because he so perfectly paints portraits of everyday life in the Heartland of America. That he can tell these stories so well, with a poet’s touch, is only part of the skill set he brings into the studio with him when it comes time to record new songs. Springsteen’s craftmanship also shines through in how clever his song construction is. Allow me to explain.

The song, “Born in the USA” is about veterans of the Vietnam War and, in particular, the horrors they faced during that conflict, as well as, the poor treatment they received from their fellow Americans once they returned home. It details the detachment many veterans felt from the political system, from society and from their own families and friends because of what they had endured. Bruce Springsteen is very much on the side of these veterans all throughout this song. He sings of their struggles with great force and passion. However, his crowning glory comes from the structure of this song. Springsteen’s whole point is to illustrate the divide in America; between those jingoistic warmongers, who define America via its’ military strength and those who serve that appetite by paying the price with their physical and mental health. Springsteen contends that the odds are stacked against those who serve so, he built his song in a way that illustrates this point each time it is played. “Born in the USA” has two parts: a rousing, anthemic, nationalistic chorus and then, a series of verses that tell the story of the struggles of Vietnam vets. For many, the part that people remember most about this song is the fist-pumping, arms in the air, USA-USA-USA! chorus! This chorus represents the nationalistic aspect of American culture and, as Springsteen shows, wth every performance of this song, that militaristic mindset dominates American society, just as the chorus dominates this song.

Not surprisingly then, “Born in the USA” stands as one of the most misunderstood songs of our modern times. It is a song that is continuously adopted by the political Right-wing in the US as an anthem for their mindset and the policies that flow from it. Bruce Springsteen has had to repeatedly file court injunctions in order to get politicians such as Ronald Reagen and Donald Trump to stop using his song at their campaign rallies and in their political ads. For many casual fans, “Born in the USA” plays as a patriotic song. Singing it out loud feels like the right thing to be doing when one is proud of who they are and where they are from. But, when you really listen to the lyrics, it is easy to discern that “Born in the USA” is a treatise on the price ordinary citizens/soldiers pay when living in a country where the military machine drives so much of the narrative of America’s national story. “Born in the USA” may be an arena rocker of a song but, make no mistake, it is not a pro-patriotic song by any stretch of the imagination.

But, what boggles my mind just as much as Springsteen’s song construction or the poetry in his lyrics, is how prolific a writer he was at the time. Just prior to the release of the album, “Born in the USA”, Springsteen released another critically-acclaimed album called, “Nebraska”. This album contained songs such as “Atlantic City”, “Mansion on the Hill” and “Open All Night”. The amazing part of this is that he wrote the songs for “Nebraska” at the very same time as he wrote the songs for the album, “Born in the USA”. In total, he wrote and recorded over 80(!) songs; some of which went on to become, “Nebraska”, some of which went on to become “Born in the USA” and the rest of which, fans hope some day, become a third album all of its own. Bruce Springsteen has been quoted as saying he feels prouder of the quality of the songs on “Nebraska” than he does of the songs on “Born in the USA”, which he refers to as a “grab bag” of songs. But, the popularity of that “grab bag” of songs is undeniable.

So, without further ado, here is one of the most popular and misunderstood songs in the last half-century of music in America….”Born in the USA” by one of the most talented singer/songwriters of our time, Mr. Bruce Springsteen. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Born In The USA” by Bruce Springsteen, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Bruce Springsteen, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #56: Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #56: Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen.

There are some songs that when they are played take you back to an exact moment in time. You instantly remember every single aspect of where you were, how you felt, who was with you….everything! “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen is one of those “instant memory” songs for me. Let me tell you the story.

A long time ago, in the life I used to lead before meeting my wife and becoming a father, I was set up on a blind date with a young woman who was a nurse at our local hospital. When we were introduced, I thought that she looked a lot like the actress, Meg Ryan, during her “When Harry Met Sally” days. This girl was very sweet and funny and we got along just fine for awhile. Eventually, it became clear that I wasn’t her idea of a forever love and we ended up breaking up. I don’t miss her or our time together but, I am thankful to her because of one memory I have been able to keep. This is that memory.

We were both still in our twenties at the time of our meeting. Neither of us had our own house yet; I shared a house with another guy. She still lived with her parents in their family home. For me, however, going to her family home is where this memory begins. Her family home was located in an area that had yet to fall under the developer’s plow blades. It was all still farmland and forest. Pristine. Quiet. Peaceful. In order to get to her house, I would have to turn off of the main highway (*which was Hwy #57, for my local peeps) and drive down a narrow laneway for about one hundred metres. This laneway was bordered by a thick growth of trees on both sides so, to drive down the laneway was akin to driving into the neck of a bottle. Once I reached the end of the laneway, Her parent’s property opened up into a circle; with her house in the centre, a barn, off to the right and a pool just to the back of the house. The property was encircled in trees, just like the laneway was. When you were inside the circle, it was like the rest of the world didn’t exist. It just all seemed so tranquil and private; completely cut off from the rest of the world.

Because she was a fairly young nurse, my friend used to often have to work the overnight shifts at the hospital (so the nurses with young children could be home with them). So, we developed a routine whereby I would show up at her house at a little after 10:00pm and I would drive her to work for her eleven o’clock shift. Try to imagine the scene; it would be pitch black by the time I would arrive. The only source of light would be from the windows of her house or the beams of my headlights. The night sky would be filled with stars. It would be perfectly still, except for the buzz of insects and the odd croak of a frog. Then, into the beams of my headlights she would appear. She would always twirl back toward the door to say good night to her parents. Her hair would always do a little flip. Her nurses uniform would sway. I would watch it all from the car and think about how lucky I was. Then she would slide into the front seat and our brief time together would begin.

“Screen door slams. Mary’s dress sways.

Like a vision, she dances across the porch

while the radio plays,

Roy Orbison singing for the lonely

Hey, that’s me and I want you only

Don’t turn me home again.

I just can’t face myself alone again.”

There is just something about country darkness. Away from the artificial glow of the city lights, you can see the Heavens for free, each and every night. On those nights, when we would drive away together under a sea of stars, it all seemed perfect. Looking back, I know that it was the feeling of the beauty of those moments, when the rest of Life seemed to melt away and there was nothing but the night sky for company, that are what I really remember and treasure. We were young and had no real responsibilities, except to share that moment together. It was as free as I ever felt.

“Well, I’ve got this guitar and I’ve learned how to make it talk,

My car’s out back if you’re ready to take that long walk,

From your front porch to my front seat,

The door is open but the ride ain’t free.

And I know you’re lonely for words that I ain’t spoken

But tonight we’ll be free, all the promises’ll be broken.”

As it turned out, we usually ended up driving out of the country and from under the stars, into the city, where I would drop her off….a peck on the cheek, my reward…..and then I would watch her walk into the hospital for her shift and I would drive home again…alone, again. Obviously, a relationship like that has a shelf life. Like the mix tape I got years earlier from another girl, sometimes there is one nugget of happiness that we all get to keep from the people we meet during the course of our lives. For me, watching her come out of her house, in the starlight, in my car light, is the memory that I carry. Like all of the young ladies who came before my wife, I value each of them for helping me learn and grow as a man and as a human so that I would be ready when the right one…..my true love….finally came along. I am very lucky. I always have been. To know good people is important. I have no idea whatever happened to this girl with regards to the rest of her life but, I hope she is happy and doing well. She is deserving of that. She was nice to me but not right for me and that is ok. It happens. But, because of it, every time I hear the opening verse of “Thunder Road”, I am taken back to another time and another place, under the stars, at peace.

“Thunder Road” was the lead track on Bruce Springsteen first big album entitled, “Born To Run”. He has stated that the twinkling piano keys and the opening notes of the harmonica were meant to act as if a wonderful story was about to begin and the listener as being invited inside to hear it. Like many songs of his, Springsteen’s ability to create vivid scenes with his words was unparalleled. There is magic in his story of two young lovers daring to dream of a better life and willing themselves to start that journey together. In all of his songs; especially one like “Thunder Road”, his characters always seem very realistic. I never get the sense that he is writing about the shiny people of the world. He is writing about everyday folks, like you and me. I guess that is one of the reasons I always associate “Thunder Road” with my own life because, at the time, I was hopeful that my young girlfriend and I were starting out on a journey to something special, each night as I drove through the neck of that bottle to get to her house. That the promise of that possibility was broken is not that important in the end. Like any good song or photograph, it was a feeling of what may be….that is frozen forever in time. I don’t need to dwell on that moment in my mind’s eye because where I ended up was where I was supposed to be. But, on those odd occasions when I do hear the opening notes of “Thunder Road”, it always takes me back and I always smile in reply.

Without further delay, here is a gorgeous live version of “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen from way back when he was just starting to tour in support of the “Born To Run” album. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Bruce Springsteen, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #237: The River by Bruce Springsteen.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #237: The River by Bruce Springsteen.

In many books and movies, flowing rivers have acted as metaphors for journeys that the main characters must take. One of my favourite examples of this is the river from the book, “The Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad which, in turn, was made into one of my favourite movies of all-time, “Apocalypse Now”. In the song, “The River”, Bruce Springsteen uses the water as a metaphor for the American Dream and how difficult it can be to achieve it. “The River” is the title track from his fifth album with The E-Street Band and is often heralded by critics as being one of the foundational songs that helped create the musical genre known as “Heartland Rock”. It is a detailed, poetic song based upon the marriage of his sister and brother-in-law. In a larger sense, it is a treatise on economic disparity in America (and other Capitalist countries), where those in need find it harder to get what they need and those without want tend to get more than they need. In Springsteen’s world, greed is not good because it tends to limit opportunity and, after all, having equal opportunity to succeed is what he feels is truly the concept behind the myth of “The American Dream”.

For me, the beauty of a song like, “The River” lay in the story it tells. For most of the people I know (and I include myself in that category), having a happy, successful life is hard work. Nothing is given to you. You make your own breaks by always doing your best, having the kind of character that draws supportive people around you and by giving of yourself to others. But, how easily it can all slip away with an accidental injury, a freak storm or the loss of a job because of a company’s restructuring that happened despite how good of a worker you may have been. We always control our own fate to a certain degree because of the choices we make but, at other times, Fate can be a fickle mistress and we end up at her mercy.

“The River” tells the story of a boy and a girl who fall in love while in Highschool. An unexpected pregnancy results in a rushed wedding and the responsibilities of parenthood; all while the couple are still in their teens. Hopes and dreams of a better life are always tempered by the fickleness of economic upturns and downturns. This brings the couple, again and again, to the mythical “river” to refresh, recharge and renew their hopes in the quest for a better life as promised in “The American Dream”.

I have always loved “story songs” and this is one of the best. Bruce Springsteen is a songwriter with a poet or a novelist’s touch. But, more than just his words, Springsteen is a master of using music to add depth to the stories he weaves so well. In “The River”, the piano intro is from the movie, “Once Upon a Time in the West” by Sergio Leone. His use of a harmonica elevates this song before a single word has been sung. There is something haunting afoot; something foreboding. And then, he starts to sing. I like how the piano keys are used to give the impression of water trickling. I, also, like how Patti Scialfa adds a whispery back up, marrying her voice to his during the choruses, fusing the notion that this song is about a couple, not just about Springsteen’s character. It is the attention to detail such as this, that makes “The River” such a classic song.

So, without further delay, lets get to listening to a song that was never released as a single but, has gone on to become one of Springsteen’s most well-regarded and most-requested live songs. Here is, “The River” from the album of the same name. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “The River” by Bruce Springsteen, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Bruce Springsteen can be found here.

The link to the official website for KEXP can be found here. Thanks, as always, for helping to inspire the writing of this post.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP: Song #436…Atlantic City by Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #436: Atlantic City by Bruce Springsteen.

With a painter’s eye for detail and composition, Bruce Springsteen has been telling the stories of his fellow Americans for almost half a century now. As a performer, he is legendary for the length of his shows and for the energy he puts into delivering his songs for his audience. He is called, “The Boss” for a reason. He has brought his vision of being a bandleader, musician and songwriter to the forefront of the music world and has done so on his terms; lending his voice to important causes, as well as, lending his presence to peers such as Roy Orbison, Melissa Etheridge, Elvis Costello, Bono and Patti Smith in the form of rockin’ collaborations. Even my girls will admit that his rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” helps to make Christmas come alive at our home each season. Over the course of his career, he has sold over 150 million albums (!!!). He has already been inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame twice (once as a performer and once as a songwriter). He has won 20 Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, a Tony Award and was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. His song list includes true classics such as, “Born To Run”, “Rosalita”, “Thunder Road”, “Hungry Heart”, “Born in the USA”, “Dancing in the Dark”, “Glory Days”, “The River”, “Streets of Philadelphia” and many more. Today, we are honouring, “Atlantic City”.

In the late 1960/early 70s, Atlantic City, New Jersey, was suffering from an economic downturn and was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. As a means of revitalizing the downtown core, developers started building casinos and large hotels; the thought being, of turning Atlantic City into a seaside gambling paradise. Unfortunately, two things happened that torpedoed that vision; first of all, because the glitz and glamour was set aside for the high rollers who came to town, not much of an economic boost was felt by the working class citizens of Atlantic City, who continued to struggle to put food on their table. In addition, gambling, and the money that tends to come with it, often attracts unsavoury characters. Even as the hotels and casinos were just being built, Organized Crime was integrating itself into all aspects of this new “paradise”. Violence started becoming a very real problem for law enforcement officials. The original vision for Atlantic City of being a glittering jewel by the sea quickly became tarnished.

Bruce Springsteen grew up on “the Jersey Shore” and knew, all too well, about how real life was playing out in Atlantic City. His song manages to capture both aspects of the story. It begins with a news headline: “They blew up The Chicken Man in Philly last night. They blew up his house, too”. These lines refer to a real-life Mob hit on Philiadelphia Mob Boss, Phil “The Chicken Man” Testa (He was seeking to take control of the gambling scene in Atlantic City…which is very close to Philadelphia. Testa was killed by a bomb which was placed under his front porch and detonated when he went to leave his house one day.) The song, “Atlantic City” continues on from the viewpoint of a young man who cannot find work and is slowly sinking into debt. In desperation, he agrees to work for the Mob. As an audience, we are left to predict the course of his life (and that of his girlfriend/wife) once he has decided to take this formal step into a life of crime.

“Atlantic City” was the only single released from Springsteen’s album called, “Nebraska”. In the song, he performs alone, for the most part; one singer voicing the inner thoughts of one character as he struggles to balance his principles and the reality of poverty and economic ruin that is staring him in the face. “Atlantic City” is a portrait of The American Dream gone wrong. It is a cautionary tale about putting a price on one’s principles. It remains one of Springsteen’s most popular songs, in terms of sales and, in terms of audience reaction when performed live in concert. Without further delay, here is Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band with a live version of a great song, “Atlantic City”.

The link to the music video for Atlantic City by Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band can be found here.

A link to the website for Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street band can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for helping promote important songs such as Atlantic City. A link to their terrific website can be found here.