Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Rock 'n' roll, it's about time

Atta boy, Bruce:
Bruce Springsteen is excited to announce his participation in the Vote for Change concert tour. Between October 1 and October 8, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will perform at five Vote for Change concerts, sharing the bill with R.E.M., and Bright Eyes with a special appearance by John Fogerty (see dates below).
Vote for Change is a loose coalition of musicians brought together by a single idea—the need to make a change in the direction of our country. We share a belief that this is the most important election of our lifetime. We are fighting for a government that is open, rational, just and progressive.
"I felt like I couldn't have written the music I've written, and been on stage singing about the things that I've sung about for the last twenty five years and not take part in this particular election," said Bruce Springsteen.
Artists participating in Vote for Change have merged their energies and talents to focus on states that are expected to have the closest race in the presidential election this fall. This unprecedented effort will include approximately 34 shows in 28 cities in 9 battleground states over the course of a week.
These concerts will feature Babyface, Jackson Browne, Bright Eyes, Dave Matthews Band, Death Cab for Cutie, the Dixie Chicks, John Fogerty, Ben Harper, Jurassic 5, Keb' Mo', John Mellencamp, My Morning Jacket, Pearl Jam, Bonnie Raitt, R.E.M., James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and more. These and other artists will appear on separate bills on the same night in selected cities around several battleground states.
Get ready for more right wing nonsense about entertainers shutting up and entertaining and staying the heck out of politics.
Face it, the list is full of honorable, charitable folks who have been peace activists and led various social charges, some for decades.
Artists who stand up for their society should be praised, or at the very least not chastised for speaking their minds.
I can only hope they'll change a few minds along the way.
Bruce's inclusion here is especially noteworthy. He spent his artistic career tied to his blue-colar roots - not as some badge of honor to be thrown about as defense for buying a new mansion, but in a far more substantial way.
Nearly every song the Boss has ever written is an artistic exploration of one of the most central American experiences: the hopes and dreams, failures and struggles, truly the lives, of the blue collar folks and the working poor. They're songs about people and experiences, hot summer teenage nights, first cars and first loves. Songs about reckless youth, and its consequences. Songs about factories closing and divorce, tears from wrinkled eyes. Songs that touch a nerve with so many, many people that rock 'n' roll star, or songwriter, don't even come close to describing him. Hero might be the best way to describe him, or idol perhaps.
Last week's Democratic convention thrust him into the political arena once again as Kerry walked out to "No Surrender." Twenty years ago a rather clueless Ronald Reagan had mined the same album and for some strange reason decided "Born in the USA" was an anthem in support of his re-election campaign.
That the plight of the disillusioned, forgotten and discarded Vietnam veterans could be coopted for the same trickle-down bullshit that in part put them in such dire straits is absurd enough to have discouraged Bruce from any public statements forever.
But there he was just weeks after Sept. 11, leading the nation's healing effort with the stark, uplifting "My City of Ruins," a song itself written about his deteriorating hometown. "Rise up," sang Bruce, gospel-style, in perhaps the most pure, unpoliticized message anyone has ever had about one of America's darkest days. It wasn't about rallying around the flag, or the president, I think most people were simply rallying around the idea of America as one community, a united people.
And Bruce gave popular music's first solid, thoughtful examination of the aftermath a year later. This was no boot up anyone's ass, no tear-jerk (and knee-jerk) country ballad.
Aptly titled, The Rising gave thoughtful Americans one man's depiction of the changed landscape, the "Empty Sky," but was at its heart and core mostly an artwork rooted in themes and messages of healing, redemption, love and peace.
Meanwhile, George W. Bush was marching to war in Iraq, confident that the changed landscape as he saw it gave him the right to launch an ill-advised, ill-planned, widely opposed war against a soverign nation, under premises described most charitably as dubious, and worse (though far more accurately) as outright lies.
It's only fitting that Bruce, whose fans are so numerous and devoted that the Boss could sell out any venue in the world, step up now. Bruce represents that silent majority of Americans who hate politics because it's an awful festering mess of egos and back-scratching, scandal and stunning ineptitude. If people want a leader, they must be sorely disappointed with Bush.
It's not as simple as Bruce saying he doesn't want Bush in office again. If it were that it would simply show how shallow mass American culture has sunk.
Take Bruce's statement as an urging from an old, trusted friend, because that's who he is. For 30 years he's just been someone who could brilliantly distill the common experiences of so many people into profound thoughts on the nature of life far greater than any individual. This isn't some celebrity endorsement, this is advice from an American hero and I hope it catches like wildfire.
Closed minded right-wing criticism is enough to affect upstart chicks from Texas, but I'd be damned if there's a more widely trusted voice in America than Bruce Springsteen.

No comments: