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Music

The song Bruce Springsteen wrote for his sister

@TylerGolsen

Even though he is widely regarded as a paragon of blue-collar ideals and real-life drama, Bruce Springsteen rarely wrote about his own life in explicit ways. Springsteen never worked in a factory or in a mill, and even though he still resides in his native New Jersey, Springsteen hasn’t had any kind of financial troubles since Born to Run hit big in 1975. 

But Springsteen does have his connections to real life. ‘My Hometown’ incorporates elements of Springsteen’s real-life upbringing in New Jersey, while ‘My Father’s House’ is a searing portrait that contains more than just a few autobiographical elements. But rarely did Springsteen point to real-life quite the way he did ‘The River’, the title track to his fifth studio album.

During a 2009 concert, Springsteen hinted to the audience into the true stories that informed the song. “The River was a record that was sort of the gateway to a lot of my future writing,” Springsteen said. “It was a record we made after Darkness on the Edge of Town. It was a record made during a recession—hard times in the States. Its title song is a song I wrote for my brother-in-law and sister. My brother-in-law was in the construction industry, lost his job and had to struggle very hard back in the late ’70s, like so many people are doing today. It was a record where I first started to tackle men and women and families and marriage.”

In an interview included in Springsteen’s 2012 biography Bruce, Springsteen’s sister, Ginny Springsteen, states that the song is an accurate description of her relationship with her husband Mickey. Mickey worked construction, and during the 1980 recession found it difficult to remain employed. Springsteen changed some names and details from reality, but otherwise, ‘The River’ remained a tribute to the difficulties of young couples trying to stay afloat.

‘The River’ was notable as being one of Springsteen’s vehicles for personal reflection while on stage. During a number of tours, including the 1985 Born in the U.S.A. tour, Springsteen would use the song to reflect on his past relationship with his father, usually with ‘My Father’s House’ or ‘My Hometown’ doing the same. When he embarked on The River tour in 2016, Springsteen often mentioned his sister and his brother-in-law as the inspiration for ‘The River’, commenting how they were still married to this day.

Check out ‘The River’ down below.