heard on the wire

I’m a cool rocking daddy in the USA

The Facebook response to my 2003 song-from-each-year-of-my-life was a pleasant surprise. So much so that I decided to change the first song in my new blog series — The Cover Art — a look at the craft of the cover version.

It must be to Bruce Springsteen’s eternal chagrin that is lament for a victim of patriotic war was taken up as an anthem by the supporters of Ronald Reagan’s successful bid for re-election in 1984.

While the foot soldiers of the GOP were shouting “Born in the USA”, Springsteen was singing about a working class American sent “to kill the yellow man” in a war which Reagan never condemned. Instead, as governor of California in the late 60s, he ordered a violent crackdown against anti-war protestors.

Of course you can’t blame Springsteen for the misappropriation of his song, his delivery does lend itself to singalong rather than contemplation. It took a different approach to bring out the best in his acerbic lyric.

The key to a good cover is making something new from something familiar. The best covers are often those that start with something mundane and give it life or, as in this case, completely transform the song into something that the original artist might struggle to recognise.

This is precisely what Ballboy did with Born in the USA, putting the lyric front-and-centre by reducing Springsteen’s bombastics to the sound of a single guitar. It captures the essence of the song and, better still, I certainly can’t imagine any Republicans or Tea Partisans shouting along.

Ballboy :: Born in the USA

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