"The Promised Land" as written by Malik Yusef El Shabbaz Jones and Steve Mckeever....
On a rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desert
I pick up my money and head back into town
Driving 'cross the Waynesboro county line
I got the radio on and I'm just killing time
Working all day in my daddy's garage
Driving all night chasing some mirage
Pretty soon little girl I'm gonna take charge

The dogs on Main Street howl
'Cause they understand
If I could take one moment into my hands
Mister I ain't a boy, no, I'm a man
And I believe in a promised land

I've done my best to live the right way
I get up every morning and go to work each day
But your eyes go blind and your blood runs cold
Sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode
Explode and tear this whole town apart
Take a knife and cut this pain from my heart
Find somebody itching for something to start

The dogs on Main Street howl
'Cause they understand
If I could wrench one moment into my hands
Mister I ain't a boy, no, I'm a man
And I believe in a promised land

Well there's a dark cloud rising from the desert floor
I packed my bags and I'm heading straight into the storm
Gonna be a twister to blow everything down
That ain't got the faith to stand its ground
Blow away the dreams that tear you apart
Blow away the dreams that break your heart
Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted

The dogs on Main Street howl
'Cause they understand
If I could take one moment into my hands
Mister I ain't a boy, no I'm a man
And I believe in a promised land

And I believe in a promised land
And I believe in a promised land


Lyrics submitted by Flutter49

"The Promised Land" as written by Bruce Springsteen

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Downtown Music Publishing

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The Promised Land song meanings
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  • +4
    My Interpretationmany of the songs on the darkness album puzzles me. Most of the songs on this album seems connected to each other, and gives more meaning if you listen to them together. Let,s start by summing up who the character of this song is. Why is the character of this song out in the dessert picking up money? Probably something criminal.... He works at his daddy´s garage... He is not independent yet. He seems to be in a period of his life where he needs to take control of his own life and make some choices about his future....
    Now, there are two main images in the song. The dessert and the town. The car represent the characters free will, individuality and possibility to travel between the dessert and the town. The town is where he grew up. It represents the conventions of society and the history that has shaped its discourses. The dessert represent the freedom and independence. It´s a wasteland that makes a boundary against the unknown. The dogs on main street.... the inferiority and dependence of the working man.
    It is hard to ignore the biblical references in the song. The people of israel also had to get through the dessert to get to the promised land. The storm also has a biblical feeling to it... the ten plagues, the flood.....
    At the end the character has taken his choice. The imagery is incredibly powerful. The storm is going to blow down everything that he finds false and unjust. He is traveling through the storm and in to the desert to search for a connection and belongingness somewhere else.
    echofishon August 13, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI have always been delighted by Bruce's purposeful use of place names and locations, ALWAYS making it seem familiar, yet the places he seems to pinpoint don't really exist! (Almost like no one being able to figure out where "Springfield" in the Simpsons really is.) My favorite (as a Utah resident) is in "Promised Land", where he leaves "Rattlesnake Speedway in the Utah desert" and travels across the "Waynesboro County line". The only Waynesboro County in the US is in Virginia!

    My other favorite, as an Ohio native, is "Highway Patrolman". The only "Perrineville" in the US is in New Jersey. Frank has Ohio plates. He is chased through "Michigan County" (there is no "Michigan County" in any state), to the Canadian border, the closest access from Ohio being Michigan!
    msgelteron May 13, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General Comment"Mister I ain't a boy, no I'm a man
    And I believe in a promised land"
    Simply brilliant. Many people think that chasing your dreams is childish, but here Springsteen is saying he's aware of that but he's still going to chase anyway.
    Jimmy the Sainton September 15, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentOne of the most underrated Springsteen songs....it's just about basically this blue collar guy going nowhere, dreaming about the better life. And no matter what goes on in his life, he still keeps believing it. The harmonica part just goes right through me.
    Flutter49on June 06, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Commentgreat song, in my top 10 bruce songs by far...i'm going to see bruce live on thursday the 15...hoping he plays the promise land
    love1969on November 13, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentSmall correction: Its "Find somebody itching for something to start", not "Pretty soon, I'll be itching for something to start". That line he only uses live from time to time, but in the original lyrics it is "find somebody itching for something to start"
    camzillaon August 13, 2008   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningHaving driven across the Utah desert on more than one occasion while going to and from college in Salt Lake City not long after this song was written in the late '70s, I can imagine how a 20-something Springsteen was inspired by the dramatic view looking across what was once a gigantic prehistoric lake. Today it's mostly "salt flats" - the dried–up lake bottom gives off a whitish hue that seems to go on forever.
    As our main character leaves the rattlesnake speedway (clearly this is a dangerous place where if your not careful, you'll end up getting "bit" -you'll lose your money in a drag race to someone who's not afraid to do whatever it takes to win) he has a lonely trip back to town where he clearly feels "trapped." He's probably lived there his whole life and was expected to do "what your daddy's done" (see another song about the American Dream unrealized, The River, 1980) but as he's grown from son/boy to now adult, he makes it clear to his "little girl" - his girlfriend and probably the only person in his small-town world whom he feels would understand and actually support his dream of "taking charge" and leaving his family, friends and job for a place where he would have a better chance to be successful. That place is his "Promised Land" - where people who have done their "best to live the right way and get up every morning and go to work each day" actually get rewarded with opportunities: to get married, to buy a house, to have kids, and to afford nice things and take vacations - in short, "The American Dream." If he doesn't leave soon, he's afraid "his eyes will go blind and his blood will run cold" in other words, he'll lose the ability to imagine a different future for himself and just give up and accept his lot in life. The line "I packed my bags and I'm headed straight into the storm" reveals that he is serious about leaving and never coming back because he's taking his belongings with him. The powerful storm or "twister" he describes is all the things that have kept him trapped in this small-town life up to this point - the expectations of family and friends - the lack of opportunities in terms of education and employment - and the friction his leaving would cause those people who don't have the "faith" in themselves and their dreams and are unwilling to believe that there is anything better outside their small-town comfort zone. His faith allows him to stand his ground when his family and friends inevitably try to discourage him from leaving. Clearly, the "twister" has kept others from believing in a Promised Land where the American Dream can come true, but he sees it as a type of cleansing - by heading toward the storm rather than away from it, he shows that faith can overcome the fears that are causing others to have their dreams "blown away." In contrast, by weathering the storm with faith, the only things he loses are those lies that have kept him "lost and brokenhearted" - and therefore unable to follow his path to a better place, his land of hope and dreams, The Promised Land.
    Surfcowon September 11, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti definitely agree with you about the harmonica part.....i love this song
    dasquien!on August 31, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe backing vocals when the verse about the storm comes in are one of the best little midway-through touchups in music history....they're totally unexpected and give the song some serious weight.

    Great track!
    z4ckm0rrison August 12, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"Explode, and tear this whole town apart,
    Take a knife and cut this pain from my heart"
    This line is one of my favourite Bruce-lines ever. It's so powerful.
    bruce_foreveron September 29, 2006   Link

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