My first contact with the song Be True was in 1988 when I bought the Chimes of Freedom EP in 1988, a special 4-Track 12″ containing live recordings of: side A: Tougher Than The Rest and Be True, side B: Chimes of Freedom and Born To Run (acoustic).
The EP was released for the benefit of Amnesty International in connection to Human Rights Now!, which was a worldwide tour of twenty benefit concerts in 1988. The concerts were held to increase the awareness of Amnesty International’s work and to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Universal Declarations of Human Rights. Apart from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, the shows featured Sting, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman and Youssou N’Dour.
The lyrics of Be True are about a working class guy who doesn’t even hope to live up to his girlfriend’s movie star ideals. There’s a conflict between dream and reality and the young lover is pleading to her to stop fantasising and give him a chance to prove himself.
What I like about the song is not necessarily the lyrics but more the energy and the melody, which make me happy. I like how the whole band give all they have, creating a “wall of sound”.
During the verses, you hear Max Weinberg’s distinctive drumming and, alongside the vocals, a cute piano tune that dances in harmony with some glockenspiel. This is even more apparent in the final verse, where it kind of mirrors the protagonist’s romantic longing for the object of his affections.
The song ends with a characteristic saxophone solo.
Your scrapbook’s filled with pictures of all your leading men
Well baby don’t put my picture in there with them
Be True is an outtake from the River. It was recorded on July 8, 1979 in one of the early recording sessions for the album. It was supposedly left off in favour of the song Crush on You. It was first released as a B-side to the single Fade Away in 1981. Later it was also released on Tracks (1998) and the Ties That Binds: the River Collection box set (2015).
According to Brucebase Be True has been played live only 75 times, the first one in 1984. I was lucky to catch it once, in Gothenburg in 2008. Here is BrucBud Magnus story from that show:
“There were hundreds of fans outside the hotel where Bruce and the band were staying. It was obvious that he wasn’t going to stop there and sure enough, once he came out he went straight to his car. Luckily three ladies were crossing the street at the pedestrian crossing where I was standing causing his van to halt. I took the opportunity to ask him to play Be True. “You wanna hear that? We’ll see, we’ll see”, he answered as he signed my Born To Run album before the van drove away.
Later, at the show, he took my sign and said: “this is for my friend outside the hotel” and they played Be True.”