I confess to loving Bruce Springsteen’s uncharacteristically lush and soaring new ballad, “There Goes My Miracle.” I wonder who it’s about?
The song takes the form of a broken-hearted lament. But it reminded me that a few years ago Springsteen strayed into undisguised partisan propaganda that culminated with his clunky song “Working on a Dream,” an undisguised hymn to Barack Obama, who was addressed as “you”: “the nights are long, the days are lonely/ I think of you and I’m working on a dream.” Springsteen first performed it at a November 2, 2008 campaign rally for the then-presidential candidate and released it on an album exactly one week after Obama was inaugurated.
On the new album, Western Stars, hearing Springsteen go into a high register to wail, “Therrrrre gooooooes my miracle,” one has suspicions, but there’s nothing overtly political about the song. But notice that (as in “Working on a Dream”) Bruce doesn’t identify the sex of the person he’s singing about: There’s no “her” or “she” in the song, much less any reference to such characters as Sandy, Candy, or Mary. Springsteen ordinarily burrows into specificity but this one is unusually vague: “Auburn skies above/I’m searching for my love” and “Moonlight, moon bright/Where’s my lucky star tonight?” In the chorus, Springsteen sings “Look what you’ve done” repeatedly — standard complaint of the heartsick. But then Springsteen switches to “Look what we’ve done.” There’s no previous indication that the singer was at any fault in the breakup. So would “we” be the United States of America? I think this is a love song to Barack Obama.
UPDATE: A dedicated Bruce-ologist writes to tell me he thinks the song is about Springsteen’s children growing up and walking away. Maybe. But I don’t think “Look what we’ve done” is the way one talks about one’s children. And the kids have been grown for a while. Springsteen’s son Evan, a musician, is 28. Daughter Jessica, an equestrian, is 27. Son Sam Springsteen, 25, is a firefighter.