Bruce Springsteen turns 70 today.
Once upon a time, a then-local “progressive” activist asked via Twitter “To all you conservative Springsteen fans; have you actually listened to the records?”
My response was “yes – much more than you“. I went on to write one of my favorite series – the one showing that Bruce Springsteen was America’s best conservative songwriter.
Not something as trivial as “a conservative who wrote music” – but someone who, at his best, wrote music that resonated deeply with Conservatives, for reasons that were utterly conservative, and for many of us utterly profound.
Ann Althouse once noted (with a hat tip to regular commenter Macarthur Wheeler):
“To be a great artist is inherently right wing. A great artist like Dylan or Picasso may have some superficial, naive, lefty things to say, but underneath, where it counts, there is a strong individual, taking responsibility for his place in the world and focusing on that.”
His best music – Nebraska, Born in the USA, Tunnel of Love and The Rising, but especially the “Holy Trinity” (Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town, The RIver) were just that; stories about the struggles, yes, but also the strength and worth of individuals; their failures and their redemptions, sin and consequences, and forgiveness.
And for anyone that misses the point, I’d urge you to watch the Netflix version of Springsteen on Broadway, the Tony Award-winning one-man show that closed last year, in which Bruce admitted – with deference and joy – that the best music in his career was about his father; that he, a guy who’d never punched a clock in his life, had written a 45-year-long litany of tales of sorrow and inspiration and warning and cool rockin’ daddies about Douglass Springsteen, his father, and his mother Adele, who plugged away for decades, sacrificing and slogging away to keep their three kids fed and sheltered.
A few months back, I went to the movie Blinded By The Light – and noted that I felt it in the pit of my stomach more than enjoying it (although I enjoyed it a lot).
Now, the protagonist (it’s closely based on a true story) was the opposite of me, socially and politically; a Pakistani Brit who skewed plenty left, like Brit teenagers do. And yet I felt it in my liver; the discovery, and the epiphany, were the same for both of us.
“See, Mitch – those traits are universal and human, and progressives can gel with them too!”.
Artistically? Sure, why not? But let’s debate what “Reason to Believe”, “Johnny 99” or “My Hometown” are really about first. Or, for that matter, the implications of what Sarfraz Manzoor wrote about – being seen as a person rather than a caricature or, dare I say, an “identity”. Then we’ll talk.
Because “progressivism” is about perfecting humanity; conservatism is about living with, dealing with the consequences of, clawing back from, and sometimes, just sometimes, triumphing over mankind’s, and one’s own, imperfections.
And if you’re lucky, passing some of that on:
I, too, believe in a Promised Land.