True Wealth in the “Badlands:” Bruce Springsteen’s “Ain’t Got You”

October 25, 2011 at 7:25 pm, by

Two weeks ago, my wallet got stolen.

I lost several hundred dollars of cash (American and foreign), some money-related cards, and various similar things.

Fortunately, friends and family were ALL very quick to help me out. And another great thing: I didn’t lose my iPod.

And that’s why I credit some of my perseverance to Bruce Springsteen.

On “Ain’t Got You,” Bruce preaches like Ben Zoma in Pirkey Avot (4:1).

Bruce has “all the riches… any men ever knew, / but the only thing [he] ain’t got” is “you” (anyone who loves him). He might have all the riches, but he is not truly wealthy without happiness.

Ben Zoma teaches: “Eyzehu ashir? Hassame’ach bechelko.” (“Who is rich? One who is happy with one’s lot.”) The greatest wealth is happiness.

I was a few hundred dollars short, but the Boss told me I’m rich. He talks through a similar paradox in “Badlands.”

Bruce says you might live in “Badlands,” in a world of chaos, and you just might “Spend your life waiting / For a moment that just don’t come.” Bruce’s advice? “Well, don’t waste your time waiting.”

With the force of a fierce yet cheerful bang on the snare drum through each beat of the chorus, Bruce argues that in the “Badlands, you gotta live it everyday. / Let the broken hearts stand / As the price you’ve gotta pay. / We’ll keep pushin’ ’till it’s understood / And these badlands start treating us good.”

Learning to dance when you’ve got no money is not just something Jessie J sings about with B.o.B.. It’s a real thing.

I now have a new wallet and new credit/debit cards, but my temporary poverty was an unusual opportunity for me to practice faith.

Bruce sings, “I believe in the love that you gave me. / I believe in the faith that could save me. / I believe in the hope, / And I pray that some day / It may raise me above these / Badlands…”

When I pray, my hope is not in God alone. It also lies in friends and family.

I am not happy I lived through some Badlands (and what I went through was nothing compared to what a homeless person might experience), but Bruce helped remind me how lucky I am to rise above the depths and to get back on my toes.

It was in the Badlands that I was reminded how wealthy I am.

Friends and family, I don’t have much money, but I’ve got something way better.

I’ve got you.

Thank you.


P.S. I believe that the clarity of lyrics on any Bruce Springsteen song is inversely proportional to the song’s popularity. Please see the following highly scientific chart:

We like Bruce's songs when we don't know what he's talking about.

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3 Comments So Far

  1. Help, I’ve been ifmnored and I can’t become ignorant.

    Gabby, November 22, 2011 at 9:31 am #
  2. Love love love Bruce. His songs have inspired me every day of my life since I was 12. Thirty-two years later, I’m as into The Boss as ever. His lyrics become more and more meaningful to the Jersey Girl living in SoCal. Born to Run and Thunder Road are my cure-all songs. I can’t wait til his new release in March – b’ezrat Hashem!

    Diana Lerner, January 19, 2012 at 12:02 pm #
  3. I’m very excited for the new album. Diana, have you heard the new single (came out today)?

    Jonah Rank, January 19, 2012 at 12:33 pm #
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