This study will focus on the songs of Bruce Springsteen’s 1982 album Nebraska. The album is a series of character sketches that deal with the lesser elements of society; criminals, the poor and vagrant, and the downcast. This is the other side of the myth of the American dream.
This article traces the development of the “Sam Hall” topos from its 18th or 17th century British origins to William Blake, to the Dubliners’ version of a Celtic traditional, to Hayes’ Harvard version, and finally to Johnny Cash. As an expression of socio-cultural criticism, the outlaw Sam Hall has been formed into a prototype of American defiant individualism “against all odds.”