What does The Promise mean?

Bruce Springsteen: The Promise Meaning

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Album cover for The Promise album cover

The Promise Lyrics

Johnny works in a factory and Billy works downtown
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...

  1. anonymous
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    Nov 2nd 2019 !⃝

    One of the best songs ever from a man who us pure genius

  2. kooljohn176
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    Dec 2nd 2016 !⃝

    A realistic follow up song after Bruce got to high in the spirit of ''Thunder Road'' with his love in hope to save and be saved on their adventure and escape into the future of what the journey would bring with ''The Promise'' heard about. After the ''Born To Run'' album, a high expectation was put on Bruce, where several heartbroken promises were broken, while working on and through the ''DARKNESS O.T.E.O.T'' album. Where Bruce had committed himself towards holding and defending his dream, trying to be honest as possible with himself and with The E Street Band members. As his Brothers in care, even with the original ''Mad Dog'' Vinni Lopez. A humble ''mad man'' drummer from the beginnings who started the E Street Band, along with his fans chasing their dreams altogether within the message of his rock and roll music. That did and can have the power to save and help you find ''The Way'' with your way on your journey in life. A time when the music had more meaning, especially on the streets when moral values were breaking down The Middle by a left and right one two punch, and then if any rock and roll music had any power to save your soul from the negative forces that created anti-humanist ideas of hate to decay your good will that you ''just wanted to Overcome'' them in you to feel free and find a healthy dream to make it your own, it was and still may be with the help of the rock and roll music of Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band that helped raise the spirit of the ones in need, even though at times Bruce was to hard on himself and must've felt like a fake that fell short to keep ''The Promise'' alive in reality for the rest of us that fell behind and lacked a little more faith that was lost to the times. I've Heard Bruce say out of his heart that nobody really wins anything, until seeing everybody else win something. Bruce was always thinking with a big heart that way for seeing all people being raised up to ''The Promise''heard about. Unfortunately though, reality becomes to hard and heavy as we get older when it comes around again. Wherefore some of us got dragged down and caught again by the same ''forces and fears'' that we fought and struggled with on the run to ''overcome them'' in ourselves within the journey to preserve the love found with the ''Music'' that's just like the circle of life in ''The Promise'' wanted to be made real, but sadly for whatever reasons, some of us are forced to come down again, feeling broken and bankrupt in need at the end to compromise our principles in order to sell of some of our material possessions that we have loved, like our sports cars that we've build and supped up with love, for racing them with each other that Bruce is relating to and feels our lost pain that needs to be thrown all away.

  3. anonymous
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    Apr 4th 2011 !⃝

    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.

  4. anonymous
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    Mar 21st 2011 !⃝

    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.

  5. anonymous
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    Jan 15th 2011 !⃝

    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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