Key Live Performance
This performance is taken from Bruce’s visit to the TODAY Show while promoting the Magic tour. It’s always fun to watch videos from Rockefeller Center and marvel over those lucky attendees getting to see such an intimate show. This video includes several inadvertently funny shots of crowd members singing along soulfully to the lyrics. I can only imagine that I look as silly as they do when I’m doing the same thing at a concert. It also features Bruce blatantly reading from the teleprompter around the 3:00 minute mark. But hey, he’s only human after all (even if it usually doesn’t seem so!). What I like most about this live performance is the way it conveys the solemnity of the song and then builds into an audience sing-a-long where Bruce compels the crowd to claim their own hometown ownership.
“I'm thirty-five, we got a boy of our own now
Last night I sat him up behind the wheel
and said son take a good look around,
this is your hometown”
The final lyrics of the song position it as one about ownership and loyalty, as the possessive attached to the hometown changes between the choruses. Prior to writing this post, I’d always associated the song with the third verse, never giving much consideration to the others. The third verse describes shuttered stores and lost jobs. It’s the verse you expect from Springsteen: an elegy for a small town that’s rotted away and the lament over a lost way of life. But that’s a reductive look at this song. “My Hometown” actually progresses smoothly through four distinct chapters. It begins with the narrator’s rose-tinted recollection of an idyllic small town. It then takes a turn into the socially conscious when racial turmoil arises in the mid-60s, leading to violence. In the third section, the hometown appears broken, and beyond repair. In the end, the narrator contemplates giving up on the town and moving away. But ultimately, he takes his son on the same drive that his father took him on, and tells his son, “this is your hometown.” For better or for worse, this is your hometown.
“My Hometown” may be the Born in the U.S.A. song I’ve listened to the least over the years. I frequently skip it when it comes on at random, and have never given it much attention. This has been my great discovery from revisiting the Born in the U.S.A. album for its anniversary. I can’t say “My Hometown” will make my must-listen list, but it will make it into rotation more frequently than it had before.