Bruce Springsteen wrote this song about Asbury Park, New Jersey, a resort town near where he grew up. He went there a lot when he was young, and watched it deteriorate as he got older. Once a popular town  in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Asbury Park had declined for a variety of reasons, including the ill-effects of the Great Depression  and race riots.

The song was composed in November 2000, for a  Christmas show to help promote the revitalization of the city. It  starts describing the current state of Asbury Park, the deterioration, and the absence of people in the area. Then Springsteen goes on,  using images such as men loitering on a street corner and buildings with boarded-up windows. The song ends, however, on a hopeful and optimistic note by powerfully imploring the city to “rise up” from the decay.

The song took on a new meaning after the September 11th terrorist attacks on the US. It became a message to New York City about rising from the ruins. It was played after the devastation produced by Hurricane Katrina, and again, during the Tour in Rome, in July 2009, Bruce dedicated this song to the victims of the earthquake  which had devastated the Italian city of  l’Aquila a few months before. Also  on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016  during his concert in New Jersey the Boss dedicated “My City of Ruins” to the victims of the recent earthquake in Italy and explained how the song is tied to Asbury Park.:  “I originally wrote this  song for my adopted hometown, Asbury Park, who suffered so long and is finally having a nice little renaissance down there — it’s good!” Springsteen said, mid song, from the stage. “People on the beach! People on the boardwalk! People in the street! That’s right, so if you’ve ever been knocked down and you’ve got to build yourself up again, this song is for you.”

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