I’ll shake this world off my shoulders… Dancing in the Dark
America’s working class hero has been seduced by the world of “beautiful people” politics. It’s heartbreaking. What tunes will play in our souls to get us through our workdays now?
Bruce Springsteen’s music tells stories of people whose lives were never to be more than 9 to 5, work and die. No fame, no fortune. The imagery of the lyrics is code, understandable by the trudging class. He sings of worker bees, whose paychecks cover the bills, a beer and a weekend ballgame.
Sometimes the songs are about the hope of getting out, of being Born to Run. Some folks need that dream. Most times though Bruce’s lyrics are a handshake to those who will never leave their little hometowns.
We get our union card and wedding coat. We’re up at the sound of bell to burn our backs in the fields or at the factory. We build memories small to the world but important to us – Janey at the lake, racing in the streets - hoping to discover that it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.
Millions of Americans who live that way were soothed and brought together by hearing their lives and symbols honored in song. Bruce became the “working class hero” because he writes about how lives are right now, not how they could be if things were different.
Even his songs regarding war weren’t political; they were about the soldier. The ragamuffin gunner in Lost in the Flood came home to a strange place. In Born in the USA the veteran laments his personal sacrifice while finding no advantage for his service. In Devils and Dust the soldier with his finger on the trigger has a crisis of faith. No politics – just the now of a working-class grunt.
In The Rising, we don’t get a post 9/11 call to arms; we get an equally important call to rebuild, with a dream of life. In Into the Fire we find our strength and faith recalling the strength and faith of first responders who ran up the steps into the flames. No politics, just a description of the now.
Bruce wrote a song from that album about Asbury Park, My City of Ruins (written in 2000, before Asbury Park’s current renaissance). It describes what is gone. Empty churches, empty streets, love lost. There is a call to “rise up!” using “these hands.”
Imagine a song about Asbury Park that best describes Bruce Springsteen. A cosmic return of the favor I suppose. In My City of Ruins, Bruce again is the dutiful reporter, recording what is now, so history will know Asbury Park later. He does not, in his songs, look backward to assign blame for now. He does not pontificate about future plans to change the now. Bruce brilliantly sings about people in their “now.”
I’ll address Bruce directly here – Why do you want to change, Bruce? In your interview with 60 Minutes, you announced a change from singing about people’s personal struggles to Washington DC politics.
Why join the world of limousine liberals, bejeweled activists and faux polemicists? Has the Hall of Fame and the Oscar changed you? That stuff is for Tim Robbins, Sean Penn and Barbara Streisand to get wrong. They are given a microphone for their talents, then abuse that microphone by talking politics, for which they have no talent. Don’t join the phony cognoscenti of Hollywood poli-wannabes, Bruce. What poet will sing about us if you do? The world will lose sight of us. Your duty to country is to sing about the small lives, not the big issues. That’s Springsteen’s patriotism.
D.C. politics isn’t your skill. I saw you on Ted Koppel’s show a couple years back. When the subject was music, you spoke majestically. You were Shakespeare. When the subject was politics, you stammered and stumbled. It’s not your talent, and you don’t need it to be.
Bill O’Reilly wants to prove politics isn’t your talent. I saw him tempt you to his show with a promise of $25,000.00 to a charity if you go. He intends to make a fool of you; he said as much.
Do me the honor of interviewing with me instead. Sit with a friend. Allow a fellow Asbury Parker to convince you not to leave us for punditry. Politics is for me; let me show you it isn’t for you. My office overlooks your old apartment behind the beauty parlor where you wrote these songs. You’ll be back home.
I can’t match O’Reilly’s money, but I’ll do the work of raising $10,000.00 for your favorite charity if you wish. Come hang with me, Bruce.