A thought-provoking exploration of Bruce Springsteen’s iconic album, Born in the U.S.A.—a record that both chronicled and foreshadowed the changing tides of modern America
On June 4, 1984, Columbia Records issued what would become one of the best-selling and most impactful rock albums of all time. An instant classic, Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. would prove itself to be a landmark not only for the man who made it, but rock music in general and even the larger American culture over the next 40 years.
In There Was Nothing You Could Do, veteran rock critic Steven Hyden shows exactly how this record became such a pivotal part of the American tapestry. Alternating between insightful criticism, meticulous journalism, and personal anecdotes, Hyden delves into the songs that made—and didn’t make—the final cut, including the tracks that wound up on its sister album, 1982’s Nebraska. He also investigates the myriad reasons why Springsteen ran from and then embraced the success of his most popular (and most misunderstood) LP, as he carefully toed the line between balancing his commercial ambitions and being co-opted by the machine.
But the book doesn’t stop there. Beyond Springsteen’s own career, Hyden explores the role the album played in a greater historical context, documenting not just where the country was in the tumultuous aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate, but offering a dream of what it might become—and a perceptive forecast of what it turned into decades later. As Springsteen himself reluctantly conceded, many of the working-class middle American progressives Springsteen wrote about in 1984 had turned into resentful and scorned Trump voters by the 2010s. And though it wasn’t the future he dreamed of, the cautionary warnings tucked within Springsteen’s heartfelt lyrics prove that the chaotic turmoil of our current moment has been a long time coming.
How did we lose Springsteen’s heartland? And what can listening to this prescient album teach us about the decline of our country? In There Was Nothing You Could Do, Hyden takes readers on a journey to find out.
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