On “Adam Raised a Cain” Springsteen isn’t slowing down for anything. He’s screaming each word. He knows why he was confused when he was 18 and he doesn’t like it. The real source of his hatred wasn’t his father’s demands, but his fear that he would become like him. Darkness on the Edge of Town isn’t simply about paying the price of escaping one’s past, one’s family, one’s class, one’s town. The terror underneath the record, the terror that comes tearing out in “Adam Raised a Cain,” is that he an never escape. It fills Springsteen with so much hate, and it also humbles him:
In the Bible Cain slew Abel,
And East of Eden he was cast,
You’re born into this life paying
For the sins of somebody else’s past.
Daddy worked his whole life, for
nothing but the pain,
Now he walks these empty rooms,
looking for something to blame.
Adam raised a Cain
Though “The Promise” was not originally about his father, in the middle of the Darkness on the Edge of Town sessions Springsteen rewrote the lyrics. The song still does not focus on that figure, but it does speak of betrayal and defeat, of lost dreams. And it is father who teaches him “how to walk quiet/How to make my peace with the past.” When Springsteen sang “The Promise” at the Music Hall last week he brought Darkness on the Edge of Town full circle, even though the song isn’t on the album. “When the promise is broken you keep on livin’ “: on Darkness on the Edge of Town Bruce Springsteen considers all the other choices; on “The Promise” he chooses.
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