Chrysler's Fake Bruce Springsteen Song
I think I posted this on the old Oppo before, but its kind of a crazy story that bears repeating, for anyone interested in 1980s car advertising - and there has to be at least tens of us. Plus, I've uncovered some new information since last time.
Basically, it goes like this. In the mid 1980s, Chrysler Corporation had rocketed back from near-bankruptcy. They had repaid all their US-government loan guarantees years ahead of schedule, were profitable, and had a (mostly) all-new lineup of lightweight, modern, fuel efficient FWD cars with turbos and V6s and had innovated in some new categories. Their chairman and CEO, Lee Iaccoca, had become as big a pop culture celebrity as a corporate executive can be, and the company was being widely touted as the sort of all-American success story that people love to eat up.
Against that background, Iaccoca decided the company ought to wrap themselves in the American flag and do a heavily patriotic themed marketing campaign. So, he turned to Bruce Springsteen to see about licensing Born in the USA as a new tagline and jingle.
Now, a song about a disaffected, bitter, Vietnam veteran might not seem like the sort of rousing patriotic anthem Iaccoca was after, but, like most people, he probably didn't bother listening much to the lyrics and was really only interested in repeating "Born in the USA" a couple of times, while the instrumental track played in the background during a voiceover describing the latest financing offers. However, Springsteen has consistently refused to license his songs for advertising over the years, and this was no exception.
Undeterred, Iaccoca decided that if he couldn't have the real thing, he'd make his own, counterfeit version. He hired songwriter Larry Gottlieb, who had previously worked with Laura Branigan, The Four Tops, The Main Ingredient, and others. Gottlieb came up with something totally original - changing "Born in the USA" to "The Pride is Back: Born in America". Aside from the similar lyrics, he gave it a kind of Springsteen-style "bouncing" feel. Since Chrysler only needed a short jingle and tagline, that's all that was initially written.
To sing it, Chrysler turned to Kenny Rogers and a female partner named "Nickie Ryder". The Pride is Back ad campaign debuted in late 1985 for 1986 model Chrysler/Plymouth/Dodge vehicles and proved quite successful. So successful, in fact, that Chrysler decided to release it as a single. Gottlieb partnered with Alan Monde and Marc Blatte to expand the jingle into a full-fledged song, again recorded by Kenny Rogers and "Nickie Ryder" and released in 1986.
The lyrics are petty vacuous, referring to great things only possible in America, like teaching your children things your father taught you, which is clearly something you can't do in France, but meaningless lyrics have never been much of a hindrance for mainstream radio airplay.
For a song written only for a car commercial, it did surprisingly well. It peaked at #30 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary and #46 on the US Billboard Country charts, and also hit #35 on the Canadian RPM Country chart.
Chrysler continued using the song in their ads until 1988, after which it largely faded into obscurity.
Now, as to who sang it with Kenny Rogers, that's always been something of a mystery. "Nickie Ryder" is obviously a stage name. Rogers himself, in the liner notes for a later box set release, claimed to not remember who she really was, but that he believed she might have been Marie Fredriksson of the Swedish group Roxette, which was obviously a joke.
Further research indicates that Nickie Ryder is most likely Sandy Farina, a pretty notable session singer from New Jersey, who's done quite a bit of commercial work since the 1970s. Notably, the song was used on the soundtrack for the 1987 Michael J. Fox movie Light of Day, with Kenny Rogers and Sandy Farina named as the singers in the credits, and Farina recorded it herself with her own band in '87, so its most likely her.
So, there you go, at Lee Iaccoca's insistence, Chrysler Corporation and Kenny Rogers came together to make a fake Bruce Springsteen song in the 1980s. The more you know.
ITA97 last edited by
This is good Oppo!
MybirdIStheword last edited by
@ranwhenparked is this an admission that chrysler stopped being proud of their products at some point? I guess the pride is back, baby!*
pride is optional on certain models for an additional fee
@mybirdistheword Lean Burn probably had something to do with it