‘Born in the USA’ 40th anniversary: Twenty different versions of titanic title track (LISTEN HERE)

Born in the USA Bruce

The cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” album.

June 4 marks the 40th anniversary of Bruce Springsteen’s landmark “Born in the USA” album, and he has announced plans for a deluxe vinyl re-release, to be released on that day. So it seemed like a good time to share various different versions of the powerful title track — widely interpreted as a patriotic anthem, though it was really more about the anguish of a Vietnam War veteran — by The Boss and others.

It was not released as the album’s first single. That was “Dancing in the Dark.” Nor was it the second; that was “Cover Me.” But it was the third, coming out on Oct. 30, 1984, and became one of the album’s seven Top 10 hits.

Springsteen performed it, on the Born in the USA Tour, in a hard-hitting style that mirrored the recorded version. His later bluesier, live solo versions — closer to the original vision for the song, as heard in his 1982 demo — made the message of the song come through louder and clearer.

Here are the 20 different versions, for the most part in chronological order.

We’ll start with the 1982 demo version, released on Springsteen’s 1998 boxed set, Tracks.

Here is the official video for the 1984 single.

Here is a live version, from 1985, that sticks closely to the template of the original release.

Fast forward to the 45-second mark of this video to see Patti LaBelle covering the song in 1985.

In 1985, Cheech & Chong released a parody single, “Born in East L.A.,” which led to a full-length movie of the same name in 1987.

Jazz-fusion bassist Stanley Clarke included a rap version of the song on his Stanley Clarke’s Band’s 1985 album Find Out!

Hip-hop group 2 Live Crew released their “Banned in the USA” as the title track of their 1990 album, following legal battles over the alleged obscenity of their previous album, As Nasty As They Wanna Be.

It took them a while to get around to it — it first aired in 1991 — but “Sesame Street” eventually did its own take: “Barn in the USA” (not to be confused with “Born to Add”)

Not a full cover, just a funny bit from the 1995 film “Canadian Bacon” suggesting that, like “Oklahoma,” “Born in the USA” is a song that many people know the chorus of, but not the verses.

Springsteen played some great bottleneck guitar on this 1998 version recorded for the French television show “Nulle Part Ailleurs,” the day before he performed at an Amnesty International Foundation benefit in Paris.

Singer-songwriter Richard Shindell included the song on his 2007 covers album, South of Delia.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse performed an amazing version of the song at the 2013 MusiCares tribute to Springsteen at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

John Mellencamp sang “Born in the USA” in 2009 to honor Springsteen, when Springsteen received Kennedy Center Honors.

Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires covered “Born in the USA” on the 2014 multi-artist tribute album, Dead Man’s Town.

Jen Chapin and the Rosetta Trio (bassist Stephan Crump and guitarists Jamie Fox and Liberty Ellman) included “Born in the USA” on their 2015 album Light of Mine.

Joan Osborne — backed by the San Francisco-based band The Waybacks and guests such as Sam Bush, Jason Crosby and Jim Lauderdale — performed the Born in the USA album in its entirety at the 2015 Merlefest festival in Wilkesboro, N.C., and released it in album form in 2016. Here is the title track.

A 2016 cover by Win Butler of Arcade Fire and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, at the Jam the Vote concert at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York.

2017 cover by The Slants

Here is Springsteen’s version from his “Springsteen on Broadway” show, in 2018.

… and, just because I can’t resist, here is the weirdest version I was able to find on YouTube (though many others come close; it’s amazing what’s out there). Sorry.

And here is one more to bring it to 21— consider it a bonus track: A reggae version recorded with the band Jah Love when Springsteen made a surprise appearance with them at The Green Parrot in Neptune in 1987.


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