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Meaning of ‘Fortunate Son’ by ‘U2’

Released: 1991

I’m sorry for the confusion, but “Fortunate Son” is actually a song by Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR), not U2. However, I can still analyze the lyrics as originally performed by CCR.

The lyrics of “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) are a bold and gritty reflection on class divides, especially as they relate to military service and the privileges of wealth in America. John Fogerty, the song’s writer, crafts a narrative that’s deeply critical of how societal and economic status can exempt some from sacrifices that others are forced to make.

The song kicks off with “Some folks are born made to wave the flag, Yeah, the red, white, and blue”, immediately painting a picture of patriotic fervor that’s often associated with American pride. But there’s a twist—“When the band plays ‘Hail To The Chief,’ Yeah, they’ll point the cannon at you”. This clever juxtaposition suggests that the very symbols of freedom and leadership can become threatening when they’re exploited by those in power to send young people off to war.

The chorus, “It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no senator’s son”, distances the speaker from the privileged elite who, due to their wealth and connections, are able to avoid the draft and, consequently, combat. The repeated “it ain’t me” emphasizes a commonality with the working class, rather than the power-hungry elite making decisions about war and peace.

Lines like “Some folks inherit star spangled eyes” and “Yeah, when they send you down to war” critique how patriotism is often used to glorify war, coaxing the young and the poor into fighting battles that benefit the wealthier, without truly considering the human cost. The song’s consistent refusal, through its defiant refrain, to be part of this system underlines a deep-seated skepticism about the American dream and who it really serves.

In essence, “Fortunate Son” isn’t just a rock anthem; it’s a protest song that sheds light on the inequities of the draft system during the Vietnam War era and the broader societal implications of wealth and class. The straightforward, relentless lyrics offer a powerful critique of American patriotism—when it’s wielded by the fortunate few at the expense of the many.

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