"The Price You Pay" as written by and Bruce Springsteen....
You make up your mind, you choose the chance you take
You ride to where the highway ends and the desert breaks
Out on to an open road you ride until the day
You learn to sleep at night with the price you pay

Now with their hands held high, they reached out for the open skies
And in one last breath they built the roads they'd ride to their death
Driving on through the night, unable to break away
From the restless pull of the price you pay

Oh, the price you pay, oh, the price you pay
Now you can't walk away from the price you pay

Now they'd come so far and they'd waited so long
Just to end up caught in a dream where everything goes wrong
Where the dark of night holds back the light of the day
And you've gotta stand and fight for the price you pay

Woah, the price you pay, oh, the price you pay
Now you can't walk away from the price you pay

Hey, oh
Little girl down on the strand
With that pretty little baby in your hands
Do you remember the story of the promised land
How he crossed the desert sands
And could not enter the chosen land
On the banks of the river he stayed
To face the price you pay

So let the games start, you better run you little wild heart
You can run through all the nights and all the days
But just across the county line, a stranger passing through put up a sign
That counts the men fallen away to the price you pay
And girl before the end of the day
I'm gonna tear it down and throw it away


Lyrics submitted by oofus

"The Price You Pay" as written by Bruce Springsteen

Lyrics © Downtown Music Publishing

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The Price You Pay song meanings
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13 Comments

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  • +3
    General CommentLife is hard, it must be fought for, but it's worth every damn minute of it. This is a Great Song! I love the way he tells of Moses disappointment and then comes in with the mighty bravado of "So let the games start....." And then the devil tries to discourage him, but he realizes his puprose in life is to give man hope through his music.......
    AWESOME!
    montresoron December 22, 2004   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationHere’s my guess: The “hands held high” is an image for hopefulness and enthusiasm as is the reference to “open skies” (transcendence). He seems to be talking about the decision to venture out on your own — to chart your own path. This continues the image of standing at the end of the highway and looking into the desert. These are the words of a kindred spirit who’s about to chase a dream knowing full well that there’s no turning back and the road will be hard. Like so many others who started out before him with enthusiasm, he’s ready to see it through to the end — to his very death. Death comes to all, but he wants to meet it on his terms — on the road that he’s going to build. And he’s going into it with his eyes open — very few make it through the desert and the ones who don’t make it (as well as the ones who do), pay a heavy price. He’s made up his mind, and he’s fully ready to pay that price. (This song — the lyrics paired with the music - is Springsteen at his best.)
    dillpickleon April 15, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI agree JGL this is one of my favorite Springsteen songs. I also wonder why more people have not commented on it.
    gfmitch72on February 17, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentCan anyone help me understand what these two lines mean?

    Now with their hands held high, they reached out for the open skies
    And in one last breath they built the roads they'd ride to their death
    cybergrailon March 06, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think dillpickle got it right. There's a price you pay for every big decision you make - whether you get what you want or you don't.

    This verse kills me:
    Now they'd come so far and they'd waited so long
    Just to end up caught in a dream where everything goes wrong
    Where the dark of night holds back the light of day
    And you've gotta stand and fight for the price you pay

    When you go after your dreams with everything you've got, sometimes you fail outright but defeat is so hard to take. So you keep fighting, only now you're just fighting for the hard price you paid for chasing your dream. That's all there is left.
    Nikko86on July 04, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentNotice how the song features both musical and textual metareferences to "The Promised Land". Their piano intros are (deliberately) crafted in very similar patterns and melodies, and in the lyrics, we read a clear-cut statement that the dreams that were somewhat alive on the previous albums, are now dead and gone.

    "Do you remember the story of the Promised Land?
    How he crossed the desert sands
    and could not enter the chosed land
    On the banks of the river he stayed
    To face the price you pay"
    hberingson July 20, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe previous review is so true, I am surprised that there is so few comment on this song, one of the greatest of the Boss for me and there are a lot ...
    JGLon July 04, 2008   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationThe Price You Pay is about facing the consequences of bad choices. A great performance, but not alot of optimism or inspiration here, perhaps that's why Mr. Springsteen rarely performs it live.
    franklintitanon July 22, 2013   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI agree with many of the previous comments that acknowledge the "Price You Pay" as referring to the sacrifices an individual must make for their dreams. However, I believe that this beautiful song also refers to the price we must pay to stay with one another. For example, many people, when the going gets rough within a relationship, begin questioning their original choice and whether or not it was a "good move" for them,or not . . . they begin to look around, perhaps, and focus on everything they CAN'T do because they are with a certain person. They look at what they perceive to be "negative" aspects of being within a committed relationship as the "Price You Pay" for doing so.

    Bruce illustrates this for me within the last stanza:

    "But just across the county line, a stranger passing through put up a sign
    That counts the men fallen away to the price you pay,
    and girl before the end of the day,
    I'm gonna tear it down and throw it away!"

    Just like "Tougher Than The Rest", I believe this song is about coming to terms with the real world and fighting the good fight: remaining faithful. We may question ourselves, eachother, and our intentions, but in the end, enduring love is what we crave, and it comes with a price. That price, I believe, is worth it.


    ConorOon February 02, 2014   Link
  • 0
    My Interpretation"Now with their hands held high, they reached out for the open skies
    And in one last breath they built the roads they'd ride to their death"

    A great line - I think it means that the protagonists have made a definitive decision, one from which there is no going back. "with their hands held high / they reached out for the open sky" - in a way it sounds like they're not ashamed of their decision, but it a way it sounds like they're not convinced they've made the right choice, and are reaching out to heaven for strength, or for reassurance. "they built the roads they'd ride to their death" - there's no turning back from the decision they've made. Good or bad, right or wrong, they're stuck with the choice they made - and they'll need to pay the price.
    kd4833on February 09, 2014   Link

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