I take it you saw the people playing “Born in the U.S.A.” outside Walter Reed when President Trump was there earlier this month. How did that make you feel? Decades after Reagan, people still seem to be misunderstanding that song.

That is my lot in life. [Laughs] That is my lot in life and I have learned to live with it with a smile. I mean, I do believe that as much as it is the writer’s job to write well, it is the listener’s job to listen well. And yet still, on occasion, I’m going to hear something like that.

I still believe it’s one of my best songs, and when we play it, it just has a cumulative power that remains with it. The pride that people feel as a part of that music is true. But to understand that piece of music you need to do what adults are capable of doing, which is to hold two contradictory ideas of one thing in your mind at one time. How something can be prideful and at the same time call to account the nation that you’re writing about. That was just a part of that piece of music. It’s a song that’s not necessarily what it appears to be.

interview, NYTimes, 10/19/2020

“Born In The U.S.A.”

Born down in a dead man’s town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You 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.

Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man

Born in the U.S.A.
I was 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.

Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says “Son if it was up to me”
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said “Son, don’t you understand”

I had a brother at Khe Sanh fighting off the Viet Cong
They’re still there, he’s all gone

He had a woman he loved in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms now

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I’m ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run ain’t got nowhere to go

Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I’m a long gone Daddy in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I’m a cool rocking Daddy in the U.S.A.