This piece is an appreciation of a man whose music is brilliant, and whose art stands alongside the best ever to come out of America, alongside that of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Neil Young. His stage shows are still the most dynamic of all time - right up there with the Stones and the Who at their very best. The fact that he's willing and able to follow in the footsteps of the great blue-collar and overtly political songwriters of the past - Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger - is the icing on this particular cake. He's also steeped in the blues and can sing and play the blues as well as the great black songwriters and performers. He also happens to have a sense of perspective as well as a sense of humour.
Bruce Springsteen: 'What was done to my country was un-American'
The Boss explains why there is a critical, questioning and angry patriotism at the heart of his new album Wrecking Ball
by Fiachra Gibbons
At a Paris press conference on Thursday night, Bruce Springsteen was asked whether he was advocating an armed uprising in America. He laughed at the idea, but that the question was even posed at all gives you some idea of the fury of his new album Wrecking Ball.
Indeed, it is as angry a cry from the belly of a wounded America as has been heard since the dustbowl and Woody Guthrie, a thundering blow of New Jersey pig iron down on the heads of Wall Street and all who have sold his country down the swanny. Springsteen has gone to the great American canon for ammunition, borrowing from folk, civil war anthems, Irish rebel songs and gospel. The result is a howl of pain and disbelief as visceral as anything he has ever produced, that segues into a search for redemption: "Hold tight to your anger/ And don't fall to your fears … Bring on your wrecking ball."
"I have spent my life judging the distance between American reality and the American dream," Springsteen told the conference, where the album was aired for the first time. It was written, he claimed, not just out of fury but out of patriotism, a patriotism traduced.
"What was done to our country was wrong and unpatriotic and un-American and nobody has been held to account," he later told the Guardian. "There is a real patriotism underneath the best of my music but it is a critical, questioning and often angry patriotism."
The tone is set from the start with . . . We Take Care of Our Own – a Born in the USA for our times – sung with mocking irony through clenched teeth by a heart that still wants it to be true. "From the shotgun shack to the Superdome/ There ain't no help, the cavalry stayed home." It is a typical Springsteen appeal to a common decency beyond the civil war he sees sapping America.
"Pessimism and optimism are slammed up against each other in my records, the tension between them is where it's all at, it's what lights the fire."
Springsteen, 62, says he is not afraid of how the album will be received in election-year America: "The temper has changed. And people on the streets did it. Occupy Wall Street changed the national conversation – the Tea Party had set it for a while. The first three years of Obama were under them.
"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 … In Easy Money the guy is going out to kill and rob, just like the robbery spree that has occurred at the top of the pyramid – he's imitating the guys on Wall Street. An enormous fault line cracked the American system right open whose repercussion we are only starting to be feel.
"Nobody had talked about income inequality in America for decades – apart from John Edwards – but no one was listening. But now you have Newt Gingrich talking about 'vulture capitalism' – Newt Gingrich! – that would not have happened without Occupy Wall Street."You tend get a better class of comment on Bruce features:
kjeeThis a 62 year old musician saying these things.. and all power to him.Can we have a few more 23 year old musicians saying these things as well?
RonnieWouldBruuuuuce!!!Springsteen fucking rules.
BeazleThe greatest American white live act there has ever been and one hell of a genuinely caring guy.
6ofclubsThe boss, not only a great artist, but a great man in general standing up for everything that is decent and just in the world.He is what I would like to think is a true American Partiot.The man is a hero for many differant generations.
ChristinuvielWhat an utter legend! By far the best live act I've seen, and someone whose music is full of intelligence, passion and talent. It's always worth listening to what Bruce has to say, and as others have pointed out, his is true patriotism, wanting what will really help the people of your country and others. Look forward to hearing this album in its entirety, though it will be sad to hear Big Man Clarence's sax for the last time on it.
DontCallMeShirleyCan't wait for this album.The Boss is at his best when he goes political. Still hasn't lost anything, even at 62. I actually felt a little deflated coming out of his concert a while back - I knew that no matter who I would see play live in my lifetime, nothing could ever top that.
stfcbobResponse to kjee, As kjee says why haven`t we got dozens of angry bands/artists making songs like this ?Bruce Springsteen is a legend.
gingerjonI'm going to join the sycophantic parade ... Springsteen is angrier, better informed, more erudite and altogether rockier than artists forty years his junior.
cryddaThe greatest live performer rock has ever known and one of its best song writers.Long may he keep on rocking and protesting.
mmmmbeerThese kind of songs speak to me and for me and I don't care who trolls. Ry Cooder has recently released a similar polemic (Pull Up Some Dust) and it all adds to the groundswell.
Bruce Springsteen is not afraid to use the 'p' word (patriotism) either and I think he's right to do so. Patriotism is exactly about 'taking care of our own' and it's patriotic to care for your citizens. It's the antithesis of patriotism to grab as much wealth as you can, to lobby, bribe and intimidate your way to riches and wave a flag as you secrete your wealth offshore. Here in Britain we are less comfortable with outward shows of patriotism - Samuel Johnson refers - but maybe it's about time we took the flag away from the fascists and gave it to the Occupy group.
nattybumpoSpringsteen has always been political and his message has never been needed more. With muppets like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich running to be President; his voice could help The USA to escape from the perils of the new type of Reaganomics they offer.It's a shame we can't overturn the moral vacuum we now have in this country with someone of his stature. Someone who could articulate in verse the election lies of "The NHS Is Safe In My Hands"; or "Let's Fuck Over The Disabled"!In fact many Government policies would make excellent song lyrics; all we need now is for someone to add a decent tune.........
jamesdarWhy is it the guys protesting against the effect of the Bush years are the older ones (Springsteen, Neil Young on Living with War)? What happened to rock and pop for rebellious youth?
fortyrunnerSpringsteen is the single most consistent artist for nearly 40 years.
The Stones, The Who, Dylan, McCartney etc had a golden period of maybe 10-15 years. Springsteen has continued to knock out amazing material in a variety of genres and his passion is still as strong.e is also the best live performer I have ever seen - amazing stuff.
aylestoneboy1Why isn't there a British musician saying these things about the horrific state that this country is in? A minority government destroying the NHS and rejigging the educational system with limited opposition. The welfare state is being killed off.
This is a country where clearly the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Culturally Sir Julian Fellowes and Etonian actors dominate. Adele complains about paying tax.......................................
Jingoism is no answer to England's ebbing power
From the EU to football and the Falklands, England must abandon its memories of empire to survive in a changing world
by Billy Bragg
Jingo is the default reaction of the English ruling class when they feel their interests are under threat. Unsure about our true position in a changing world, they hold on to the union flag like a comfort blanket, wrapping themselves in it to enhance their sense of importance.
While the Scots seem confident about their future, a Little Englander mentality is in danger of taking hold south of the border, in which every external challenge is perceived as a threat.
The rattling of the old jingoistic sword is a sure sign that the English ruling class feels its power ebbing away, torn between a European super-state, the aspirations of the Celtic fringe and demographic changes within England itself. Whether the English can awake from their long dream of empire and use this opportunity to renew their sense of identity remains to be seen.
Unless and until we throw off our imperial pretensions and begin to relate to our neighbours as equals, joining with them in creating new networks of active devolution and shared sovereignty, we English are in danger of becoming an insular people, jealously guarding the right to make our own laws while increasingly unable to control our destiny.
1111 comments on this piece so far.