Cross-posted on "Home of the Free."
This is not a column about Bruce Springsteen. It is not a review about his soon to be released album “Magic” or an endorsement thereof. Indeed, I have never been a Springsteen fan. It’s not that I dislike the man or his music; I just never understood the hype.
Perhaps I wasn’t listening close enough.
Springsteen and the entire E Street Band performed on NBC’s Today Show this morning, “on the plaza,” like so many other performers who are promoting… something. A new album or a tour usually, but sometimes it is something more. As big as the Today Show gig is, Springsteen certainly doesn’t need NBC’s help selling records or tickets.
Among the characteristics many associate with Springsteen, patriotism has to be right up there. He is as American as apple pie and Chevrolet. Although he has made political statements in his music in the past, this album takes the gloves off. When introducing “Livin’ in the Future,” a track from his new album, Springsteen makes the following statement while the E Street Bland plays a soft prelude:
“This is a song called ‘Livin’ in the Future,’ but it’s really about what’s happening now. Right now! The things that we love about America like cheeseburgers and french fries and the Yankees battling Boston... the Bill of Rights, V-twin motorcycles… We love all these things. However, in the past six years, we’ve had to add to the American picture: Rendition; illegal wiretapping; voter suppression; no habeas corpus; neglect of our great city New Orleans and her people; attacks on the Constitution and the loss of our best young men and women in a tragic war.”
More than just a list of gripes, Springsteen goes on with his own call to action.
“Right now we plan to do something about it. We plan to sing about it. I know it’s early, but it’s late. So come and join us.”
It is interesting that his last album with the E Street band, “The Rising,’ was released in 2002 - just before the junior Bush’s war in Iraq. It is probably safe to say Springsteen doesn’t need the money and equally safe to say that he did not need to produce a new album to sell out a tour. No, it is clear there is something else he needed to do. He needed to exercise his first amendment right to freedom of speech - before it too has been swallowed up by a fear-mongering, power-hungry and arrogant administration. More than a right, it is likely that Springsteen views it as a responsibility.
The chorus from “Livin’ in the Future” warns, “We're livin' in the future. And none of this has happened yet.” It’s an ominous message and a thread that runs throughout the entire album.
So often the arts have been the conduit for political change. So many artists have been the victims of suppression, exile and and many have paid for their activism with their lives. In America our right to vocalize our disagreement or even our disenchantment with the government is guaranteed by the Constitution - but as Springsteen points out, so are so many other rights that are slowly being eroded by our government.
They call him the “Boss,” a moniker I have always taken issue with - my reply always, “He’s not my Boss.” But in this case at least, I’ll take heed of his message. His values, when it comes to nationalism… to constitutionalism, are absolutely mine.
He asks some very pointed questions. Today, I am listening.