In 1981, touring in support of his album The River, Bruce Springsteen announced in Paris that he was reading a book that was having a profound effect on him: "I just started to read History of the United States and the thing about it is that I started to learn about how things got to be the way they are today, how you end up a victim without even knowing it, and how people get old, and just die after not having hardly a day's satisfaction or peace of mind in their lives."
In 1984, Springsteen released Born in the U.S.A, an album that provided an image and a sound that rhymed with the times. Springsteen reinvented himself physically—appearing muscle bound in workingman's shirt and jeans, a bandanna around his head. And he experimented musically—adding synthesizers to his sound for the first time.
Some tried to associate the title song, which leads off the album, with a glorious resurgence of American patriotism among a younger generation (Springsteen was only 35), but anyone who paid attention to the first line, "born in a dead man's town," realized this was a continuation of the dual theme of entrapment and escape. I'm ten years burning down the road/ Nowhere to run ain't got nowhere to go,cries the narrator. Indeed, it had been ten years since Born to Run. And now, unemployed, with loved ones lost, on the edge of the penitentiary, the narrator awaits an American birthright that will not be delivered.