Springsteen’s “Long Walk Home” and the Alienating Feeling of Election Results

Bruce Springsteen released “Long Walk Home” in 2007 on his Magic album.  He wrote the song to reflect how he felt during the years of the George W. Bush presidency.

Last night I stood at your doorstep,
Trying to figure out what went wrong.

“Long Walk Home” is about a guy coming back to his hometown and not recognizing anything.  As Springsteen explained about the singer’s character in The New York Times,  “The things that he thought he knew, the people who he thought he knew, whose ideals he had something in common with, are like strangers.”

In town I pass Sal’s grocery,
Barber shop on South Street;
I looked in their faces,
They’re all rank strangers to me.

The reference to “rank strangers” in Springsteen’s “A Long Walk Home” was inspired by the song “Rank Strangers to Me,” sometimes called “The Rank Stranger” or just “Rank Stranger.” Albert E. Brumley wrote “Rank Strangers to Me,” which was made famous by The Stanley Brothers.

“Rank Strangers to Me” is also about a man returning to the town of his youth.  As in Springsteen’s song, the singer discovers he does not recognize anything.

The meaning of “Rank Stranger” is open to interpretation. There is no resolution or explanation about why the singer does not recognize the people in his town. Has he died? Has everyone else died? It is a mystery that makes the song haunt you long after you have heard it.

Similarly, in Springsteen’s song, the unrecognizable world feels alien to the singer. The meaning would be mysterious too, except that Springsteen has provided context for “The Long Walk Home.” He explained about the alienation during the Bush administration, “I think that’s what’s happened in this country.”

It’s gonna be a long walk home;
Hey pretty darling, don’t wait up for me;
Gonna be a long walk home,
A long walk home.

While some celebrated the election results this week, many felt they were seeing their country in a way they could not recognize. Maybe Springsteen had a feeling about what was going to happen when he chose to play “Long Walk Home” outside Philadelphia’s Independence Hall during a rally for Hillary Clinton the night before the election.

Either way, the song captures the disappointment that one side often feels after an election. But that is the nature of democracy. At one time or another, we all have to take a long walk to get back home.

Leave your two cents in the comments. Photo by Chimesfreedom.

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