11

Apart from the song The Promised Land, there are quite a few other songs by Bruce Springsteen whose lyrics make reference to a "promised land".

Some examples:

  • "For all the blown-off strangers and hot rod angels, stumbling through this promised land" (Racing In The Street (1978 demo version) )

  • "We'll ride out tonight to case the promised land" (Thunder Road)

  • "A one way ticket to the promised land" (The Ghost Of Tom Joad)

Does this phrase have any significance or specific meaning to Bruce?

Has Bruce ever been asked in an interview about his many mentions of the promised land?

3

The Promised Land is a theme that Springsteen employs, because it's a place he always wanted to be. In his lean younger years, before the fame, it was a place he hoped to get to. It was a place he hoped his fans got to. It was a common cause that bound his fans to himself. The Promised Land is, after all, "the runaway American dream". ;o)

There is also the biblical reference, and apparently Springsteen slipped a few of those in when people weren't looking.

5

I don't know exactly when Bruce said it, but he takes some inspiration from Chuck Berry. Chuck Berry also has a song called the "Promised Land". I assume that was direct inspiration for his same of the same name.

Also, the promised land could be used in a sarcastic tone, because he doesn't actually believe in a promised land. Using one of your examples:

With the eyes of one who hates for just being born
For all the shut down strangers and hot rod angels
Rumbling through this promised land"

A promised land is one of almost perfection and goodness, whereas the things Springsteen references to in the song give the impression of a non perfect world full of the not-so-good things.

3

"The Promised Land" is a profound concept that has been a part of the world's music for several thousand years. It is most certainly not uniquely associated with Bruce Springsteen, Chuck Berry, or any other musician.

Undoubtedly, the concept and the image of The Promised Land resonate with Springsteen because of his Roman Catholic faith. The concept of "The Promised Land" comes up again and again in the theology and teaching not only of the Catholic Church but also in all forms of Judaism and Christianity, throughout history.

"The Promised Land" is a literary and artistic symbol for any ethnic group achieving freedom from oppression, especially slavery, and of achieving peace after struggle and suffering.

"The Promised Land" can also refer to the Christian concept of Heaven (or of a person experiencing death and going to Heaven), as a land of rest after the suffering and struggle of life on Earth.

The origin of the term "The Promised Land" comes from the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) and is thousands of years old. "The Promised Land" refers, geographically, to the land of Canaan, a region corresponding to modern-day Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, western Jordan, and southwestern Syria.

Within American music in the last two hundred years, references to "The Promised Land", "Canaan's Land", and "crossing over the River Jordan" can be found frequently in African-American spirituals, black gospel, and in reggae music. But it has always been found, world-wide, throughout the entire history of any kind of Christian or Jewish sacred music or any music inspired by those traditions, in every language.

African-Americans who were slaves in the USA in the 18th and 19th centuries, and who became Christians, saw the Bible stories about the Hebrew slaves gaining their freedom and inheriting and possessing the Promised Land of Canaan to be a metaphor for their own struggle to achieve emancipation from slavery and live as free citizens in the USA. That is why there are so many references to The Promised Land throughout African-American spirituals. African-American spirituals are the direct ancestors of the blues, jazz, gospel, and rock and roll music. And Bruce Springsteen's music, too.

The Promised Land is a frequently-referenced concept of the USA's African-American Civil Rights movement. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. makes frequent references to The Promised Land in his sermons and speeches. Watch this short clip from Dr. King's final speech:

http://youtu.be/4WZbxYGy3As?t=1m50s

You can find references to "The Promised Land" in reggae music, including that of Bob Marley. For the Jamaicans and adherents of the Rastafarian religion, The Promised Land refers to their own struggle for equality and freedom for their ethnic group, but also had specific references to nations in Africa gaining independence from European colonial influences in the 20th-century.

The literal meaning and original concept of The Promised Land, as the land of Canaan, originates in the Jewish Bible, the Old Testament, in the Book of Genesis. The concept is referenced time and time again in the subsequent books of the Bible, throughout the Jewish and Christian Bibles (the Old and New Testaments).

Wikipedia article on The Promised Land

In the Book of Genesis, God establishes an eternal contract with the family of a man named Abraham; he is the progenitor of the Hebrews, later knows as the Israelites and later as the Jews. God tells the Hebrew people that they are the Chosen People of God. He promises them that they will inherit the Promised Land (Canaan) and be able to live there as a nation. Once the entire race of the Hebrews have been freed from slavery in Egypt, the prophet Moses leads the Hebrews to the edge of the Promised Land, and the military leader Joshua takes the Hebrews across the River Jordan and into the Promised Land and conquers its peoples. This leads eventually to the establishment of the city of Jerusalem, and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

Throughout the subsequent history of the world, many writers, poets, artists and musicians have made frequent references to "The Promised Land". Not only was this a literal reference to the Bible stories; it also became a literary and artistic symbol for any contemporary ethnic group achieving freedom from oppression, and peace after struggle and suffering.

No, "The Promised Land" has nothing to do with Bruce Springsteen, per se. It has to do with Bruce Springsteen's Christian faith, and with thousands of years of world culture.

  • I think it's been edited enough. 20 revisions is excessive. – Donald.McLean Jun 2 '15 at 12:46
  • @Donald.McLean, what a strange comment. I've got 22,000 points on Music: Practice & Theory, have been writing there for about four years, and no one has ever commented on the number of edits I make to an answer. I've written and edited this answer in the same manner that I've done the 441 answers I've posted on Music: Practice & Theory. Are you telling me that I'm violating some kind of rule on Music Fans that is different than the rules for Music: Practice & Theory? – user546 Jun 2 '15 at 15:46
  • It's not a hard and fast "rule", more of a guide. Every time you edit your answer, it moves the question to the top of the sites question list. As a result, the system throws a flag on any answer that's been edited more than 10(?) times so that mods can look out for users who are gaming the rep system by keeping the question with their answer at the top of the question list. On a site like Music Fans which is still new and has light traffic numbers, this is less of an issue. I'm not saying don't edit your question, but perhaps hold off posting your edits until you're sure you're done. – Donald.McLean Jun 2 '15 at 16:39
  • Oh, and just so you know, I like your answer and gave it a vote. – Donald.McLean Jun 2 '15 at 19:23
  • +1 for a very detailed answer, although I'm not entirely convinced that it answers the questions asked, which are Does this phrase have any significance or specific meaning to Bruce? and Has Bruce ever been asked in an interview about his many mentions of the promised land? – Carl H Aug 29 '15 at 19:09

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