Skip to comments.Here’s one Boss listening to the 99% (LAUGH ALERT)
Posted on 03/04/2012 9:32:38 AM PST by Chi-townChief
Woody Guthrie idolized Jesus Christ, but Woody could do without preachers. Holed up in a New York City flophouse in 1940, he penned his two greatest songs, each inspired by this point of view. Jesus Christ Was a Man depicted the Christian namesake as a worker true and brave who championed the rights of the common people and was betrayed by the political elite. This Land Is Your Land was Woodys reaction to another song that bugged him to death, Irving Berlins God Bless America. As Joe Klein wrote in Woody Guthrie: A Life, Woody saw Berlins narcotic standard as just another of those songs that told people not to worry, that God was in the drivers seat. Regardless of ones religious beliefs, Woody reasoned that such sentiments encouraged passivity in the here and now. Woody believed God had already blessed America made it for you and me and that its our duty to use our God-given talents to maintain that blessing and live up to its gift.
Bruce Springsteen is often connected in the culture to Woodys working-man spirit; no doubt hell be involved in some of the events this year celebrating the centennial of Woodys birth. The swell of Occupy Wall Street protests and their seeming lack of new music thus ratcheted up some anticipation of Springsteens latest record, Wrecking Ball, his 17th studio album (out Tuesday but currently being released online song by song, day by day).
Hes written some lyrics that address and allude to the countrys recent financial crises and social inequities, but Wrecking Ball is a conflicted creation. In the end, Springsteen, now 62, merely falls to his knees and calls on a shepherd to come sort it all out.
Springsteen doesnt write fiery protest songs. He relates conversations, repeats monologues, thinks aloud. Its an effective tactic because it speaks with us, possibly for us, but rarely down to us. It certainly works in the opener, the single We Take Care of Our Own, a basic Badlands-style stomper and an ironic rallying cry. One can predict another Born in the U.S.A. moment here at some political rally, where a politician blares the song as he steps to the podium, having heard only the deceptively reassuring, patriotic chorus instead of the antithetical lines underneath (There aint no help/The cavalry stayed home). We cant rely on outside aid, hes saying; weve gotta watch out for each other.
The front end of the album steams ahead with similar sentiment. Them fat cats, he sneers in the desperate Easy Money. Around nearly every early verse, Springsteen a 1 percenter whos not exactly charging $5 a ticket for his shows and has long been nicknamed, perhaps troublingly in this particular context, the Boss pokes at rich people and those who guard their sums. The banker man grows fat / Working man grows thin, he observes in Jack of All Trades, and thats after noting, Up on Bankers Hill, the partys still going strong / Down here below, were shackled and drawn. In Death to My Hometown, he laments the quiet destruction of Main Street America, reciting an anti-corporate party line: I never heard a sound / The marauders raided in the dark / And brought death to my hometown.
Near the end of that one, though, Springsteen makes his call a call for a real protest song, singing:
Now get yourself a song to sing
and sing it til youre done
Sing it hard, and sing it well
Send the robber barons straight to hell!
The greedy thieves who came around
and ate the flesh of everything they found
whose crimes have gone unpunished now
who walk the streets as free men now.
The songs on Wrecking Ball might not be those songs, but perhaps the moment will focus their messages and help spread the values of a movement still finding its legs. Most of these lyrics were written well before protesters occupied public spaces around the world, and none of them are unusual standouts above his countless other trodden-upon characters and snapshots of Americas economic dark side.
What has changed is that one or two of these characters wear ties a first, Springsteen recently admitted to Rolling Stone. Thats been the minor miracle of Occupy Wall Street: the realization by American wage slaves that they are justified in taking to the streets, too, that coveralls and khakis are welcome in the marches, that we all have defiant songs to sing, and loudly.
Springsteen clearly sympathizes with Occupy, the 99 percent, whatever were calling them this week, but he just as clearly wants to keep a little distance. For example, he masks himself with some odd accents on a few songs. Death to My Hometown is delivered in an Irish brogue that matches the tunes lively Celtic instrumentation. On the title track, a transcendent eulogy written in 2009 upon the destruction of Giants Stadium, Springsteen sings about being raised in the swamps of Jersey but chews a dialect thats pure southeast Oklahoma.
Musically, the albums satisfying, if not superb. Producer Ron Aniello fills in the spaces of these songs, which allegedly began life as Nebraska-style acoustic folk, with light electronic beats and plenty of guest support without overburdening anything. Assistance includes sporadic input from a few E Street Band members, including the final sax solos from the late Clarence Clemons (on Land of Hope and Dreams and Wrecking Ball). Libertyvilles Tom Morello contributes thoughtful electric guitar to, unfortunately, a couple of the albums less powerful statements, Jack of All Trades and This Depression (a meditation on mentality, not economics).
Springsteen ends the album by letting even higher voices speak on his behalf. The Bruce-by-numbers Land of Hope and Dreams, an E Street-wide epic hes been toying with for more than a decade, quotes Curtis Mayfield in between train rides and assurances that faith will be rewarded. The whistled, trumpeted Ring of Fire-like impressions underneath We Are Alive mix up the struggles of railroad workers, civil-rights marchers and illegal aliens with a cross up yonder on Calvary Hill and further promises that our souls and spirits rise.
Rocky Ground, in particular, features a looped sample (someone shouting, Im a soldier!) and gospel singer Michelle Moore cooing the songs hook and then people get ready rapping the refrain. Springsteen, meanwhile, encapsulates his parting thoughts within a barrage of biblical language, from flocks and shepherds and 40 days and Canaan to more vague platitudes like a new day is rising and a new days coming.
Pray that your best is good enough, Springsteen now advises. The Lord will do the rest.
Somewhere, hopefully, theres a young, new Woody Guthrie out there, listening to this album and scribbling, scribbling.
After Tunnel of Love, Springsteen lost me.
Bruce is now part of the 1% he writes protest songs about and like ALL useful idiots, if the lefties get their Brave New World, The Boss will be shipped off to the gulag...probably in Camden.
Maybe this will resurrect this dinosaur.
He solicited one of each from the audience, then proceeded, on the spot, to make up and sing what could have passed for a song from Springsteen's latest album:
"Parkin' outside Pittsburgh in my beat up Chevy / Sally in my backseat, our love gettin' heavy"
In the 20+ years since, every time I've read or heard about Springsteen, my first thought is of that comedian and how he had the formulaic nature of Springsteen pegged to a "T".
He’s extremely popular and has been for a long time.
The guy is charging over a $100.00 a ticket for his upcoming tour. Nuff said.
“I ain’t a Communist necessarily, but I been in the red all my life.”
“One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
By the Relief Office I saw my people
As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
God blessed America for me.”
“Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing
This land was made for you and me.”
Lefties of all stripes loved Guthrie then, especially the Communist Party USA. He even wrote for the CPUSA’s newspaper, The Daily Worker, in a column titled “Woody Sez”. It is debated whether Guthrie was a formal member of the CPUSA, but he once said, “The best thing that I did in 1936 was to sign up with the Communist Party.”
If he had lived to witness Obama’s election, he’d have probably said something like “for the first time in my life I’m proud of my country.” Guthrie would be right at home among the most radical elements of an OWS protest today.
“This Land is Your Land” is a communist anthem, just like Lennon’s “Imagine”. Whether folks ignore or fail to understand the meaning its lyrics is irrelevant.
Heh, I remember those “Occupy Wall Street” things. They were in the news a couple years ago and they eventually became encampments for the homeless. Springsteen is a little long in the tooth, but he’s still savvy enough not to waste songs on that kind of passing fad, I hope.
No doubt that if Springsteen was a political conservative and played benefit concerts for Reagan and Bush instead of Clinton and Obama, he'd be hailed here as America's greatest rock artist.
So attack the man (he deserves it) but don't marginalize his talent just because you don't agree with him politically. That's a tactic of the Left.
So a protest song is envy wrapped in pretty music?
Their wallets, maybe. In reality, the banker eats steamed salmon and goes to the gym so he can maintain his $1,000-per-suit wardrobe; but the working man is obese from chips, cheese, pizza and beer.
Yeah but it’s key to rememeber that Woody was really pissed at immigrants including Irving Berlin.
I thought Springsteen was great back in the 70s as those others you mentioned (well, Young and Simon not so much) but when your time up it’s up, it’s that simple. Same thing with the Stones, pretty much dead from the neck up since the 70s. And it goes on and on: U2, REM, The Cure, Elvis Costello all just ran out of steam.
Since the release of ‘Nebraska’ he has been less and less interesting and more and more annoying. The money and fame has definitely gone to his head.
Try a little something from a contemporary that can actually sing and brings real life experience into the song writing process.
Or an oldie but a goody:
And out of nowhere his son, Arlo, is a self admitted conservative Republican. Karma do be sumpin else once in a while.
Guthrie thought Jesus was a politician.
Being proud Communists, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger protested AGAINST the US going to war against Nazi Germany.
Woody’s guitar didn’t “kill fascists” later in war.
Being proud Communists, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger protested AGAINST the US going to war against Nazi Germany.
Woody’s guitar didn’t “kill fascists” UNTIL later in war.
He’s not the Boss of me.
If he’s the Boss then we’re disgruntled employees.
Woodys guitar didnt kill fascists UNTIL later in war.
Woody's guitar changed its tune shortly after 22 June 1941, which was before the US entered World War II.
Curiously, that's when the US labor movement, the media, and non-fascist leftists became really interested in getting the US involved as well.
Pearl Harbor wasn't until 7 December 1941.
“Woody’s guitar changed its tune shortly after 22 June 1941”
Exactly. The left was against the war, so long as Germany and Russia were working together to divvy up Europe amongst themselves, but as soon as the Germans revealed their plan to dispose of the Commies, the left changed its tune. They’ve never been anti-war, anti-war is just a cover to sucker the masses into opposing wars against the left’s allies.
Michael Stanley’s cool, a fellow Clevelander!!!
P.S. I thought This Town would be the oldie ...
Who sits in front of a $500 flat-screen TV eating all that junk food while his obese 12-year old son with breasts plays on a $150 X-Box 360. Poverty in America is a joke. It doesn’t exist, like hunger. I’m so f**king sick of hearing ‘’poverty in America’’. It’s bullshit. If poverty does exist in America it’s an indulgence.
Arlo is an Occupier, not so conservative.
He just released a new album last week ‘The Hang’. I have not heard it but I have heard the title song;
and “Breaking Down”:
I also just received the tickets for his March 25 concert @ the Tangier in Akron. His shows are always a good time!
He described himself as a conservative Rebuplican, even gave reasons. I didn’t say anything about where he goes to sing. Remember Rush Limbaugh had SIR Elton John perform at his wedding, does that make SIR Elton John any less of a lib?
——Bruce Springsteen was great ... about a thousand years ago.-—
“The River” was his best. A fabulous album. But he’s been declining since then. His vision has progressively constricted, from the trials of every man, down to liberal cliches.