Bruce Springsteen: The Promise Meaning
The Promise Lyrics
Terry works in a rock and roll band
Lookin' for that million-dollar sound
I got a little job down in Darlington
But some nights I don't go
Some nights I go to the drive-in, or some nights I stay...
anonymous Apr 4th 2011, 21:16 report
When I first heard this song, after listening to the Boss for many years, I felt as though I'd just met a long-lost sibling. The only thing better than a '69 Chevy with a 396 is, of course, a Hemi Challenger (granted, Bruce never wrote a song about a '71 'Cuda).
And although the pathos of the lyrics is immediately obvious to anyone over the age of 30, the rational part of my mind kept asking what broken "promise" the singer was referring to. Something he'd sworn, but failed, to do? An unfaithful wife/lover? Disillusionment and disappointment (at God? life? fate?) for unfulfilled and shattered dreams?
Then it struck me that Bruce had, as he often does, worked in another level of complexity by playing a subtle word game. The word "promise" refers not only to a covenant or an oath, but also to one's potential (as in "he seemed to have so much promise..."). The promise is "broken," in both senses of the word, because the singer is confronting his own perceived failure, the sense that he has squandered his youth and "cashed in... [his] own dreams."
Another reviewer mentioned what he (or she) felt was the most moving part of the song, but to me, one single line captures all the heartache and resignation of middle age. The first part, "I built that Challenger by myself...," reminds me of the song Racing in the Street, where the singer and his partner built their unbeatable Chevy "straight out of scratch," and logically what comes next should be the story of how the singer and his hotrod beat the competition and rode off into the sunset. The Challenger, with its muscular frame and killer engine, represents the optimism and arrogance and brash joy of youth... the singer's vision of the future. Instead, he continues, laconically, "but I needed money and so I sold it." Period.
The effect is that of a car door being slammed in one's face. A dream dying. A promise broken.
anonymous Mar 21st 2011, 13:46 report
Disillusionment, hopes and dreams that die slowly. The longer we hold on to our dreams that we know in our hearts we will never attain the more painful life gets. To me Springsteen is saying that once we become adults and let go of our dreams the more peace of mind we will have. We must settle for less in order go on in our lives and keep our sanity. I think he mentions that this is what he was trying to convey in his songs in the making of Darkness on the Edge of Town. Pretty heavy stuff.
anonymous Jan 15th 2011, 14:11 report
Antithesis of Thunder Road... there they could escape but in The Promise dreams crash and die hard. Not sure what is meant by "lived a secret," perhaps cheated on a girlfriend? Same girl from Racing in the Streets? The Promise most poignant lyrics are:
"When the promise is broken you go on living
But it steals something from down in your soul
Like when the truth is spoken and it don't make no difference
Something in your heart goes cold"
All Springsteen songs speak to me, but The Promise is haunting me!!
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