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Rock Hall Anniversary: Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A.

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By 1984, Bruce Springsteen was already one of the most critically acclaimed and successful rock artists, but in that year he would reach the apex of his career.

It was that year that he released his seventh studio album Born in the U.S.A. Recorded for nearly two years, and featuring the iconic image of Springteen’s backside standing in front of an American flag (taken by photographer Annie Leibovitz), the album was the musician’s second number one album (after 1980’s The River), as well as his biggest seller (with over 30 million copies sold worldwide, including 15 million in the U.S. alone). The album also matched the record of yielding seven top ten singles (tying with Michael and Janet Jackson) including the title track, “Glory Days” and “Dancing in the Dark”.

Musically, Born in the U.S.A. shifted away from the dark, intimate and acoustic concept of Springsteen’s previous album Nebraska, but still focused on the certain hard times people sometimes face (such as unemployment), while presenting a sense of optimism to rise above them. However, the album’s concept was also misinterpreted. This was true with the title track, when conservative groups deemed the song as “patriotic” and a possible campaign song for then-president Ronald Reagan (something the liberal Springsteen turned down). But the title track was in fact in contrast to the negative effects Americans had on the Vietnam War.

In addition to being a huge seller and Grammy winner, Born in the U.S.A. was also enormously acclaimed by critics, and continues to be that to this day. The album is one of eight ranked on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of all Time (at number 86), and it was one of the albums to help popularizing heartland rock, giving further rise to artists that were already acclaimed including Bob Seger and Tom Petty.

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