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An excellent blog post on "Brothers Under the Bridges '83", connecting it to the '95 song


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Absolutely had to share this brilliant analysis of "Brothers Under the Bridges '83", which does a fantastic job really eloquently laying out the youthfulness that runs through almost the entire song and how the music and lyrics together accomplish it, for starters...

 

https://estreetshuffle.com/index.php/2019/10/21/roll-of-the-dice-brothers-under-the-bridges-83/

 

...but it also makes a GREAT point that, while most sources seem to write off the two similarly-titled Tracks songs as totally unrelated (a fair thing to do when they're very different songs musically that come from different eras, and that many incoming fans - myself included - might get confused and need it unambiguously emphasized that they are not at all the same song)... looking at the very closing lines, they probably are not at all. These two songs are very related, with the end of the song finding the narrator either on the cusp of being drafted, or else reflecting on it all much later in life. The line that keeps sticking with me is:

 

"The autumn wind sends a chill
Through the brothers under the bridges..."

 

The song closes on this image: an autumn chill - the end of summer, the end of warmth, a chilling shadow of the looming end of the year, of the approach of winter - and with winter, danger and death.

 

The brothers don't even know what's coming for them or what that chill in their bones indicates. They don't know what's on the horizon. They don't know what horrors and injustice are just around the corner as the metaphorical winter sets in.

 

The effect of leaving all that looming horror implied, but unstated - just as the brothers themselves don't know what's coming - of giving us just a brief glimpse of what's on the horizon, and leaving the rest unspoken, is profound and utterly striking. Like seeing a killer in the background whose prospective victims don't even realize how close he is or what danger they're in. The song ends on an autumn chill, heralding the end; the rest is up to the listener.

 

So many of Bruce's songs (and they are great songs) focus on the horrors of the draft or its aftermath. This track does so subtly and implicitly, by taking the time to focus on what came before and on simply humanizing these poor souls as young, energetic, full of hope and dreams, and utterly relatable. Other songs focus on the destruction; this one centers on what was taken away to begin with.

 

It is an absolutely brilliant song that, until reading this post, I never gave due credit to, having never appreciated those final lines.

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In an Interview from the German Rolling Stone there's an interesting statement from Bruce about the two 'Brothers under the bridge(s)":

Q: You wrote two songs named 'Brothers under the bridge(s)". One is from '83 (about teenagers), one from '95 (about Vietnam-vets). Is there aconnection, regarding contents?

A: The first is from the BITUSA period, and it's a song about growing up. When I was 14, I admired those boys and the close friendship that connected them. I wanted to belong to them back then. The end of the last verse indicates that changes were ahead of them. While working on 'Tom Joad" 15 years later, I remembered that title. I lived in California, and in the St. Gabriel Mountains, east of LA, there lived a group of Vietnam Vets. I wanted to write a song about them.They found the city so brutal that they simply left it entirely to live in the mountains where they couldn't be reached.

The connection is, that many of the boys that I admired in 1964 when I was 14, had to go to Vietnam later. In the first song I sang about 'marching feet come and gone'. That really happened. I met them again in the St. Gabriel Mountains in some fashion.

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2 hours ago, CrushOnOutlawPete said:

So many of Bruce's songs (and they are great songs) focus on the horrors of the draft or its aftermath. This track does so subtly and implicitly, by taking the time to focus on what came before and on simply humanizing these poor souls as young, energetic, full of hope and dreams, and utterly relatable. Other songs focus on the destruction; this one centers on what was taken away to begin with.

Living in the so-called aftermath, feeling scared and seeing a feral society - something that many American teenagers faced in the 60s and 70s. In the fourth verse we find out how the story continues

Well now I hear a cry in the distance and the sound of marching feet come and gone
Well I'm stittin' down here by this highway figuring, figuring just where I belong
Tonight up on Signal Hill I watch a young man in a red shirt walking through a night so still
Put his jacket 'round his girl as the autumn wind send a chill
Through the brothers under the bridges

Which brings us to another piece of the puzzle begging another question: what about the missing lyrics?

 

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