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Three years after the release of Working on a Dream, Springsteen swung back into action when this lead single from his seventeenth studio album, Wrecking Ball, was made available online. The anthemic up-tempo rocker finds The Boss singing of patriotism and brotherhood and decrying the broken promises of the government. "Wherever this flag's flown, we take care of our own," he croons. The song was released on January 19, 2012.
The rollicking keyboard line appears to fill the gap left by the absence of Clarence Clemmons' sax. The song was the first Springsteen composition to be heard since the death of his former E Street band colleague.
The line, "Where's the love that has not forsaken me," most likely alludes to Jesus Christ's cry on the cross, "My God, why hast thou forsaken me," as reported in the Gospel of Matthew.
This song along with the rest of Wrecking Ball was produced by Ron Aniello, who has also manned the boards for records by Jars of Clay, and Springsteen's wife and E Street Band member Patti Scialfa.
Much of the song's lyrical content appears to contradict its title. For instance Springsteen explicitly references America's lack of care for the Hurricane Katrina casualties. ("From the shotgun shack to the Super Dome/There ain't no help, the cavalry stayed home"). Springsteen clarified the song's message, during the unveiling of Wrecking Ball
to the world's media at Sony Records' Paris headquarters. "The song asks the question that the rest of the record tries to answer which is, 'Do we?' - we often don't," he said.
The Boss added that songs such as this and 'Born In The U.S.A.
,' with an apparently positive chorus should not be misinterpreted. "I write carefully and precisely," he said, "and I believe clearly. If you're missing it you're not quite thinking hard enough."
Springsteen opened the Grammy Awards in 2012 with a performance of this song that met with mostly favorable reviews. The song fit the somber mood of the ceremony, which took place the night after Whitney Houston was found dead.
The song enjoyed a sales surge after it was played at the end of President Obama's speech during the Democratic National Convention on September 6, 2012.
The song's music video was directed by Thom Zimmy and shot in early January 2012 in an abandoned theater in Asbury Park. Reflective close-ups and slow-motion images of working class Americans augment shots of Bruce performing. "You work with spontaneity," explained Zimmy to Uncut magazine. "The end of that video, for instance, where the people are walking, wasn't planned. The weekend we were shooting, the Light of Day charity concert event took place in town, so we gathered up some fans and people in the streets of Asbury Park and had that shot happen, then incorporated it into the video. With Bruce, you're planning, but you're always open to the moment."
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