To: Bruce Springsteen
From: Mitch Berg, Once And Always Fan
I’ve been a huge fan since I was a kid. Since before I became a conservative, even.
When you’re a conservative Springsteen fan, you get used to the occasional churlish phumpher from some ideology-addled lib scold; “have any of you actually listened to Springsteen’s lyrics?” To which I reply “yes – in a level of detail people like you only devote to stalking Michele Bachmann. My question for you is, have you actually listened to the lyrics, especially on his first five or six albums, without passing them through your PC filter?”
They rarely answer.
But the fact remains that you, starting in about ’84, but escalating since 2004, have been slathering yourself and your music with politics – which, like most showbiz-lefty politics, is showy, shallow, shrill, and skin-deep.
Like in your conversation with a Swedish radio station recently. Tim Blair writes:
The Boss goes all svag and hopplöst:
Bruce Springsteen wants to see the United States transformed into something closer to a Swedish-style welfare state, the rock legend said Thursday …When asked if he thought the United States should be changed into something closer to a Swedish-style welfare state, Springsteen responded enthusiastically …
Now, whenever “Springsteen music” comes up in conservative circles – as in Blair’s comment section – you get a slew of standard responses; “haters”, I believe the kids call ‘em today. You hear a lot of the same lines over and over:
- “Springsteen’s music sucks!” - Well, there’s no accounting for taste as a general rule, but…no. That is objectively, empirically, physically false.
- “He’s got no talent” - Wrong again. He’s a great guitar player, one of the greatest songwriters of the rock and roll era (only Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richard, Leiber/Stoller and a few others come close to the impact he’s had, commercially and artistically). And you just try to arf out a tune, much less in tune, during a three-hour concert, even in your thirties, much less when you’re over sixty, like Bruce, much less without stripping your vocal cords bare and shooting them out your mouth with his “all lung-power” vocal technique? You can’t do it, whoever you are. No. You can’t. Any of those are talent. Together, they an amazing combination.
- “Sprinsteen’s politics are dumb, and he should just shut up and sing” - Well, OK. Now we’re getting somewhere.
Good example? Blair points out Bruce’s paean to the fleabaggers:
It’s impossible to know what young Bruce would have made of the Occupy movement, but old Bruce is down with the deadbeats:
“The temper has changed. And people on the streets did it. Occupy Wall Street changed the national conversation …
“Previous to Occupy Wall Street, there was no push back at all saying this was outrageous – a basic theft that struck at the heart of what America was about, a complete disregard for the American sense of history and community.”
Springsteen is worth four times as much as Michael Moore, and he’s still bitching.
It is a simple fact that the “Holy Trinity” - Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town andThe River - are three of the greatest albums in the history of rock and roll. There is no rational way of denying that. Absolutely incandescent albums, crammed with moments that grab me and tens of millions of other people right in the liver, sometimes sending a shiver up my spine, others a smokey glimmer of understanding. And not a partisan political moment in the bunch. Not that that’d matter, necessarily – although they’d be a tangent that’d really make no sense on any of the records. I mean, would “Backstreets” have been a better song had the estranged lovers been driven apart by evil capitalists? Would “Rosalita” have been better if Bruce had gotten a big advance from the Carter campaign instead of the record company? If what (what) Candy (Candy) wanted (wanted) was (was) his talking points list?
Of course not.
And Nebraska, Tunnel of Love, The Rising and The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle are all wonderful in their own right, full of things – stories, lessons, hooks, characters – that have accompanied me through good and bad times throughout my entire adult life, from junior high through 9/11.
And nothing’s going to change that.
But in your own amiably earnest way, you are turning into a thinner, less-grim, less-outrageous, but vastly wealthier Michael Moore.
It’s the dirty little secret for conservatives who are Bruce fans: the more into politics he got, the less interesting his music became. Born in the USA was…good, with a few great moments. The relentlessly-political Ghost of Tom Joad got tiring. And his work since The Rising? Kinda rote and not that interesting, musically or thematically.
Ah. Bruce. Sorry you’ve gone off the rails. We’ll always have the Holy Trinity.