My New Book!

My New Book!
My New Book!

Friday, February 16, 2024

February 16, 2024: AmericanStudying Love Songs: “Happy”

[I know it might not be very 2024 of me to say, but love is in the air, and not just because it’s Valentine’s week. If you’re feeling it too, or maybe if you need a little help getting into the V-Day spirit, this week I’ll quickly highlight the AmericanStudies stories behind a handful of our great past love songs, leading to a special post on current ones that have hit my heart. Add your Valentine’s tunes in comments, please!]

You didn’t really think I could get through a whole songtastic series without including Bruce, didya? When Springsteen was young, he was—as he himself has since admitted quite honestly and thoughtfully—not great when it came to romantic relationships, and thus often not at his songwriting best when depicting them (although there are still some greats on the early records). But in the decades since, Springsteen has matured and become a true master of what I would call the “adult love song”—songs about both the gaps between romantic ideals and human realities and (most importantly and to this listener inspiringly) the ways we try to navigate and make the most of our relationships and lives nonetheless. For my money, no song has ever captured those layers better than does “Happy” (1992), especially in its final verse: “We’re born in this world, darling, with few days/And trouble never far behind/Man and woman circle each other in a cage/A cage that’s been handed down the line/Lost and running ‘neath a million dead stars/Tonight let’s shed our skins and slip these bars.” Word, Boss.

Special post this weekend,


PS. What do you think? Other love songs you’d AmericanStudy?

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