Bruce Springsteen offers a sustained prayer to his Holy Mother and his country, without irony or cynicism. He can't think that way—and good for him.
In a blogworld where economists noodle over cooking recipes, a tone-deaf lawyer may be forgiven for peddling the works of an artist who hardly needs any further promotion. However, Mr. Springsteen unconscionably yanked the attached song (studio version here, live version here) from his repertoire decades ago. It’s unknown even to serious fans. To my knowledge, the Boss performed it only twice, 1983 or so. Mr. Nils Lofgren, who has kept the song alive, considers it the Boss’s best ever. I’m inclined to agree.
There’s a near-Straussian theme here: you may want to keep your best work, and the stuff that’s most you, under wraps. Note the Eagles-style riff at the beginning and the glorious Roy Orbison tribute throughout, or the subdued saxophone (roughly 1:25 into the studio version): let the band (C’mon Steve’! C’mon Big Man!) loose on this material, and fans may never want to hear anything else. Who needs Badlands?
A few more themes: here is someone who unites Americans across several generations; a Catholic who struggles honorably with his faith but speaks eloquently of, and never forgets, the promise of redemption; who understands and loves his country like no one else; and who—a bazillionaire aged 62 or so—works his posterior off, night after night, in the quaint belief that work is what you’re supposed to do, that he owes it to his fans, and that the world might be a better place for it.
And so it is.