I found this interview rather interesting, especially this line.
“In my songs, the spiritual part, the hope part, is in the choruses. The blues and your daily realities are in the details of the verses.”
In Langston Hughes’s poem Let America be America, the (ultimately hollow) patriotic cheerleading is in the verses. The recognition of the USA’s white supremacist history is in the chorus.
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
In Born in the USA, as Springsteen points out, the dark, negative energy that came out of the imperialist war in Vietnam is in the verses and the affirmation of “America” is in the chorus.
Born down in a dead man’s town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
End up like a dog that’s been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up
Born in the U.S.A., I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A., born in the U.S.A.
Interestingly enough, the far right has never tried to appropriate Langston Hughes.
2 thoughts on “Springsteen is Langston Hughes Turned Inside Out”
I just spotted the words to A Dream Deferred on a friend’s Instagram account and couldn’t help noticing a similarity with some lyrics in the song The River “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse?” I would guess Springsteen is a fan of Hughes work.
Yes. I think Springsteen is directly quote Hughes in that line. But it’s a very widely known quote so he could have picked it up in a number of places.