Communication is a wonderful thing. But sometimes it can leave you speechless. I’m doing a little rewriting these days of the sequel to Einstein’s Trunk, and I’ve inserted a scene where the Bruce Springsteen song ‘Born in the U.S.A. is mentioned. In doing so it prompted a memory and I did a little research.
Now, for those of you who don’t know that song, it was released in 1984, and even today is still well thought of and rated number 275 on Rolling Stone’s list of top rock-n-roll hits. The song is about a working class guy who gets “in a hometown jam and has to go serve in Vietnam”. He has no idea what the war is about, loses a friend there and comes to see the war as senseless and the promise of America as unfulfilled.
In other words, the song was not particularly positive about America’s direction at the time – though the title could make you think it was. But here’s the communication angle: In 1984, conservative columnist George Will saw Springsteen in concert, complained the music was too loud, obviously couldn’t hear the lyrics, but loved the title and sound of Springsteen’s hit song – Born in the USA – and decided that Springsteen must be a real, true-blue, supporter of conservative values. Will mentioned this to his friend, Michael Deaver, Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff. Deaver later mentioned it to Reagan’s speech writers, and the next thing you know Reagan is talking about Springsteen in his campaign stump speech. Reagan said, “America’s future rests in a thousand dreams inside our hearts, it rests in the message of hope in the songs of a man so many young Americans admire: New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen.”
In fact, Born in the USA told a completely opposite story. But thanks to the office of the president, the ‘branding’ stuck despite the obvious contradiction provided by the lyrics. As a side note, Lee Iacocca, who obviously never listened to the lyrics either, offered Springsteen $millions to use the song to promote Chrysler, but Bruce turned him down.
But I digress: I received an email a few weeks ago enlightening me on the origin of the name “Yohaba Melekson” – the heroine of Einstein’s Trunk. It turns out that Melek means king in Hebrew and Melekson means ‘son of the king’. Also, the name ‘Yohaba’ has connections to the Hebrew name for God. And it turns out that Rulon’s name also has a religious connotation. I originally chose the name ‘Rulon’ because it was an old Idaho pioneer name that stirred up notions of someone who was straight-laced but perhaps a bit of a hick – remember, Rulon likes to be underestimated! Well, it turns out that Rulon as a first name is a native American name that means ‘Spiritual’. So both Rulon and Yohaba have a name with a spiritual side to them – albeit unintentional.
My next post will either be on Mitt Romney’s chances of being president or a review of mystery writer Michael Connolly’s book – The Fifth Witness. Let me know if you have a preference.