Philadelphia-bred singer-songwriter John Francis has long been an advocate for social justice. Themes of disenfranchisement cropped up across his 2010 album Better Angels, from racial segregation to class stratification (get a refresher course in his Key Studio Session here). More recently, he threw the City of Love Festival to support local hunger charities and launched a PledgeMusic campaign, which seeks to both fund his next album and support the international poverty organization One. So when Francis chooses to cover a Bruce Springsteen song for Veteran’s Day, you know there’s more to it than just playing an iconic song by an iconic artist.
“Born in the U.S.A.” is one of the most misinterpreted songs in rock history; lyrically, the song tells a harrowing tale of the troubles faced by a Vietnam vet upon returning home, but it’s commonly used as a yay-America anthem at sporting events, 4th of July celebrations and even political campaigns. Which completely misses the point, and Springsteen’s original demo (recorded in the style of Nebraska and available on the Tracks box set) makes it much more evident. Francis’ own version takes a similar approach with strings and light acoustic instrumentation.
“I’m releasing the song today, Veteran’s Day, and working with veteran’s agencies locally and nationally to get the song out there,” Francis said via email. “It’s an attempt to bring exposure and shed light on the dire plight of many of our returning veteran’s, and our society’s pervasive blindness toward the most marginalized and vulnerable individuals.”
The songs was recorded in Creative Workshop Studio in Nashville and produced by Ken Coomer (original Wilco drummer, Uncle Tupelo), with Kenny Vaughan on guitar (Lucinda Williams, Ray Lamontagne) and Dave Roe on bass (Johnny Cash, John Mellencamp). Listen to the track below.