MURDER IN SONG: NEBRASKA-BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (1982)

Nebraska the album is filled with stories of despair, crime, murder and desperate men doing desperate things. The title track, “Highway Patrolman”, “Johnny 99” and “State Trooper” are songs soaked in blood and hurt. I bought the album on it’s first day of release in 1982 and would listen to it for hours in my room studying it song by song and word for word. For this week’s Murder in Song I plan to discuss and present to you the title track of the album, “Nebraska”. Inspired by the 1958 real-life murder spree committed by Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate and by the Terrence Malick directed Badlands (itself inspired by the crimes) and also by “Caril”, a 1974 true crime book by Ninette Beaver, Springsteen sings the tale first person from the point-of-view of Starkweather in a flat, unemotional style that is perfect in its delivery. With lyrics so stark and haunting they could make Flannery O’Connor (another inspiration for both the song and the album) jealous, Springsteen as Starkweather tells us of their blood-soaked journey from ‘the town of Lincoln, Nebraska’ to ‘the badlands of Wyoming’ that left ‘ten innocent people’ dead. With lyrics inspired by Malick’s film (‘I saw her standing on her front lawn/Just-a twirlin’ her baton’) and from Starkweather’s own words to his father (‘At least for a little while sir/me and her we had us some fun’) “Nebraska” is in my humble opinion a true masterpiece of the murder ballad genre. Listen for yourself and I hope you enjoy it.

I saw her standin’ on her front lawn just twirlin’ her baton
Me and her went for a ride sir and ten innocent people died

From the town of Lincoln Nebraska with a sawed off .410 on my lap
Through to the badlands of Wyoming I killed everything in my path

I can’t say that I’m sorry for the things that we done
At least for a little while sir me and her we had us some fun

The jury brought in a guilty verdict and the judge he sentenced me to death
Midnight in a prison storeroom with leather straps across my chest

Sheriff when the man pulls that switch sir and snaps my poor head back
You make sure my pretty baby is sittin’ right there on my lap

They declared me unfit to live said into that great void my soul’d be hurled
They wanted to know why I did what I did
Well sir I guess there’s just a meanness in this world

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10 thoughts on “MURDER IN SONG: NEBRASKA-BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (1982)

  1. This sparse, brooding disc gets overlooked in Springsteen’s catalog, but I feel it’s among his best! The track “Atlantic City” is still hauntingly beautiful. The entire album has a real film noir feel to it!

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