Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sherry Darling by Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen has tackled some of the most profound issues and events in the American experience. He has written and performed songs about 9/11, the Vietnam War, unemployment, unions, teenage pregnancy, the failure of the American dream, racism, sexism, fatherhood, patriotism and religion.

“Sherry Darling,” from 1980's The River addresses another important part of what it means to be American: the mother-in-law.



The River is where Springsteen really hit his stride. While it’s not as epic as Born To Run, it takes the depth of Darkness On The Edge of Town an injects it with an unashamed optimism. While there are very deep and somber songs on this album like the unforgettable title track, in many ways, no Springsteen album rocks quite as joyfully as The River.

Springsteen wanted to capture the 1960s sub-genre “fraternity rock.” We’re talking about a song like “Wooly Bully,” and “Louie Louie.” These garage band songs were recorded in what sounded like a party. This type of song you can immediately sing along to partially because the lyrics are ambiguous but mostly because of the spirit and the energy of the song.



The ridiculous thing about Springsteen is that he couldn’t simply do a fraternity rock song without putting his own spin on it.  The way he did this was by making it into a hysterical rant of a song, complaining about his girl’s mom.

“Sherry Darling,” isn’t a direct complaint to the mother. The words are directed towards the girl. However it comes across more like the protagonist is with a bunch of his friends bragging to them what he’s going to tell his girl. There’s a sense of bravado, which gives you the idea that this may be more talk than anything else.

The first verse and chorus are hilarious. He complains about the mom’s feet, the fact that this mom won’t shut up and if she doesn’t he will kick her out of the car. The last part of chorus turns it around to being romantic, “I got you and baby you’ve got me.” It speaks to a dream of a relationship that is untouched by outside forces. There’s this idea that if the world would leave two people alone they could be happy, but relationships are never just about two people.

In the second verse, other girls distract him but then he swings his attention back to Sherry. The song continues to be romantic “let the brokenhearted love again,” while reminding us each chorus about his issues with the mother-in-law.

“Sherry Darling,” is a fantasy. It’s like thinking about how great it would be to tell off your boss. You’re never going to do it, but sometimes it’s fun to think about it and laugh about it with friends. Springsteen pairs this feeling with the jubilation of an idealized teenage love. He’s got beer, an open road and his girl, what more do you need in life?

It’s put across in an immature and brash way, but it’s a beautiful thought. We don’t need our moms, our jobs, all these other people, we got all we need in each other. This feeling of optimism, the confidence in the power of love is expressed emphatically in this song. We get beaten down, because forces all around us just seem to get in the way, it’s nice to be reminded sometimes you don’t really need much to be happy.  Even though you may have a mother-in-law with big feet, if you’ve got the one you love, you can laugh and sing about it.

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