Song of the Day #1,814: ‘The Hitter’ – Bruce Springsteen

devils_and_dustEvery song on Bruce Springsteen’s Devils & Dust lands like a shot to the gut by the protagonist of today’s Song of the Day.

The record is full of mournful tales of hard-luck characters beaten down by life but still struggling for some hint of redemption or, in the case of today’s protagonist, rest.

This album is more like a collection of short stories than a studio recording.

On songs like this one you can really see the influence Bob Dylan has had on Springsteen, right down to his mumbled delivery.

Come to the door, Ma, and unlock the chain
I was just passin’ through and got caught in the rain
There’s nothin’ I want, nothin’ that you need say
Just let me lie down for a while and I’ll be on my way

I was no more than a kid when you put me on the Southern Queen
With the police on my back I fled to New Orleans
I fought in the dockyards and with the money I made
I knew the fight was my home and blood was my trade

Baton Rouge, Ponchatoula, and Lafayette town
Well they paid me their money, Ma, I knocked the men down
I did what I did well it come easily
Restraint and mercy, Ma, were always strangers to me

I fought champion Jack Thompson in a field full of mud
Rain poured through the tent to the canvas and mixed with our blood
In the twelfth I slipped my tongue over my broken jaw
I stood over him and pounded his bloody body into the floor
Well the bell rang and rang and still I kept on
‘Till I felt my glove leather slip ‘tween his skin and bone

Then the women and the money came fast and the days I lost track
The women red, the money green, but the numbers were black
I fought for the men in their silk suits to lay down their bets
I took my good share, Ma, I have no regrets

Then I took the fix at the state armory with big John McDowell
From high in the rafters I watched myself fall
As they raised his arm my stomach twisted and the sky it went black
I stuffed my bag with their good money and I never looked back

Understand, in the end, Ma, every man plays the game
If you know me one different then speak out his name
Ma, if my voice now you don’t recognize
Then just open the door and look into your dark eyes
I ask of you nothin’, not a kiss not a smile,
Just open the door and let me lie down for a while

Now the gray rain’s fallin’ and my ring fightin’s done
So in the work fields and alleys I take all who’ll come
If you’re a better man than me then just step to the line
Show me your money and speak out your crime
Now there’s nothin’ I want, Ma, nothin’ that you need say
Just let me lie down for a while and I’ll be on my way

Tonight in the shipyard a man draws a circle in the dirt
I move to the center and I take off my shirt
I study him for the cuts, the scars, the pain,
Man, nor time can erase
I move hard to the left and I strike to the face

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One thought on “Song of the Day #1,814: ‘The Hitter’ – Bruce Springsteen

  1. Dana says:

    Such a beautiful and intimate song. Dylan influenced for sure, but also a throwback to earler Springsteen albums.

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