“The Rising”

Written by MaKayla Markey. 10 November 2014.

The Rising delves into the destruction of the September 11th attacks on the United States just like many of the other songs on the album do. Springsteen tells a story through his lyrics about the narrator who dies honorably while carrying out their duty and then describes their ascent to heaven. Not many people that aren’t a part of Springsteen’s core fan base are very familiar with this song. The song never enjoyed mainstream, “Born in the U.S.A.” kind of success, although it won Bruce a Grammy for Best Rock Song, “The Rising” peaked at #52 on the Billboard charts. This is very interesting for a song of this caliber. So in hopes that it would receive more recognition I decided to analyze the song. After a thorough analysis of “The Rising” I came to the conclusion that the song’s intention on the audience is to inspire them as well as serve as a call to action. Springsteen uses many different strategies like repetition, imagery, delivery, ethos, and other stylistic devices to achieve this effect.

220px-TheRisingSingleThroughout the song Springsteen reiterates his same message of inspiration in different ways. This form of structure compels listeners to think about the narrator rising up over and over celebrating the great sacrifice made by the hero, which then makes a bigger presence in the audience’s heads. This is a very powerful strategy that will leave a larger psychological imprint for a longer period of time. This creation of familiarity is extremely powerful. Wesley Moons argues that, “Any factor that generates a typically unconscious sense of familiarity automatically and unintentionally increases validity” (Moons 1). This is exactly what Springsteen executes. For example in the chorus he says, “Come on up for the rising. Come on up, lay your hands in mine. Come on up for the rising. Come on up for the rising tonight.” This chorus, which is repeated many times, wants the audience to pay special attention to the narrator’s accent to heaven. Bruce Springsteen’s chorus also has the support of the other verses that also inadvertently talks about sacrifice and the narrator’s journey from heroism to death and sanctifying that. Even though the other verses don’t necessarily come out and say that exactly, they are still restating the same message in different variations. This kind of repetition moves listeners after 9/11 because it is such a powerful example of selflessness as well as the influence of survivor’s guilt.

Another key strategy Bruce utilized in his song was the stylistic devices he peppered throughout his verses. In his first verse he creates a very vivid picture for the audience of what may be a firefighter or any other single person involved in the rescue of people in the twin towers would experience. This imagery is seen throughout the song in five total verses where he depicts particular scenes the narrator encounters with directness that is easy to understand and also creates clarity in his message to the audience. This is very important because if it is easy for listeners to see and understand what he is singing, then Springsteen will have a far greater impact on the audience. The story is what sends the message, so it is important that listeners can see and understand the story. They don’t have to know exactly what Springsteen means in every single line, since that is open for interpretation, as long as the basic message is sent to the audience.

Springsteen’s instrumentation and tone are also another very important factor when analyzing this song. The chorus is his most direct portion of his song. That is where he directly talks about the narrator rising up to heaven. Each verse before the chorus has fewer instrumentals and builds in intensity the closer he gets to the chorus. When he reaches the chorus all instruments in the song are playing and he even has back up singers to emphasize the lines even further. Each time the chorus is sung, Springsteen does it with purpose and power to really get his point across to his listeners. This really draws in the audience and forces them to hone in on the lyrics, which repeat as the song goes on another two times after the first. This is a very successful technique to get the audience to subconsciously zero in on what Springsteen feels are the most important lyrics to portray his message and then he repeats it to really get it caught in his listener’s heads. By cementing his message into the audience’s heads he intends to inspire the American people to be more selfless out of love for their Nation and not let the terrorists fully succeed in tearing apart the nation. Also, during the chorus, the back up singers sound very angelic as if they are singing in a church choir. This further solidities Springsteen’s religious influences on the lyrics as well as his story of ascent to heaven. Another thing to point out is that “The Rising” is definitely not a sad song. Springsteen sings with energy and life. This leads me to believe that this song is more celebratory than not. This celebratory theme only encourages people to model their life more like the life of the narrator’s.

UnknownThere is something Bruce Springsteen has that many other artists reporting on the September 11th attacks in their songs do not have. Springsteen has credibility. The men and women affected on that day like, “The office workers, firefighters and cops who died at the World Trade Center–many from his native New Jersey–were his people, the regular folks he writes about, sometimes with grating righteousness, sometimes with heart on fire” (Gates 1). In one of his most popular songs, “Born in the USA” he also refers to his people of his native land in New Jersey. “The Rising” is no different. By writing about people he is directly connected to, Springsteen is forming strong ethos. Those men and women are apart of a personal branding he shares with the state of New Jersey, which is very close in proximity to the attacks. With a strong backbone of credibility his audience is far more inclined to listen to what he has to say and take it in. In other words they are far more likely to actually respond to Springsteen’s call to action. This is a very natural way in which people respond when being directed by someone of credibility and authority. So when it is utilized properly, like how Springsteen does in “The Rising”, there are very positive responses.

Bruce Springsteen wrote the song “The Rising” on his 2002 album The Rising with immense purpose. Springsteen knew he wanted to inspire the American people and provide them with proactive motives to fight back in their own way. Modeling as good selfless citizens is the way to do that. He wanted them to fight back by not letting the nation fall apart when it easily could have after such a traumatic event. “The Rising” was written as a call to action for citizens of the United States of America. A call to rise up as one people and show the terrorists they cannot prevail against our strongly united nation.


Time Form Listening Cues Disscussion
0:00-0:35 Intro “Can’t see nothin’…”
  • Slower paced
  • Just Springsteen and a few instruments
0:35-0:52 Chorus “Come on up…”
  • More instruments enter
  • Building of the music tempo
0:52-1:10 Verse 1 “Left the house…”
  • All instruments being used
  • Back up singers come in
1:10-1:28 Chorus “Come on up…”
  • All instruments still being used
  • Back up singers still involved
  • “Li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li”
  • Use of sounds instead of real words
1:28-2:00 Instrumentals Guitar Chords
  • Guitar solo
2:00-2:35 Verse 2 “Spirits above…”
  • “Li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li”
  • Use of sounds instead of real words
  • Verse tappers to a slower pace
2:35-3:09 Verse 3 “I see you Mary…”
  • Less instruments used
  • Slower tempo
3:09-3:43 Verse 4 “Sky of blackness…”
  • Starts to rebuild again
  • Repetition of lines
  • Back up sounds
3:43-4:40 Chorus “Come on up…”
  • Full throttle with instruments
  • High tempo
  • Very upbeat
  • “Li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li”
  • Use of sounds instead of real words
  • Toward end of segment instruments die down again and taper off while Springsteen finishes singing and song ends


Works Cited

Gates, David. “Report From A City Of Ruins.” Newsweek 140.5 (2002): 56. Academic Search Complete. Web. 6 Nov. 2014.

Moons, Wesley G., Diane M. Mackie, and Teresa Garcia-Marques. “The Impact Of Repetition-Induced Familiarity On Agreement With Weak And Strong Arguments.” Journal Of Personality & Social Psychology 96.1 (2009): 32-44. Academic Search Complete. Web. 6 Nov. 2014.