You probably saw him at the Superbowl


but did you see him at the pre-inauguration concert? As my dad said last night while we ruminated* on the greatness of Bruce, The Rising is one of the best albums he's ever made. I was quietly sad that no one at the Superbowl party I attended seemed to know even a fragment (just "Born in the U.S.A." doesn't count) of this man's canon of music (besides David who was on his way during halftime). Hopefully the crotch-camera collision inspired them...

And be sure to see him sing "This Land is Your Land" with Pete Seeger, where Rolling Stone's editor Will Dana said he "turned the entire nation into a happy, socialist summer camp." He also had a great bit about Obama's love of Stevie Wonder:

"But in embracing the artists who turned out for him, Obama showed he was one of us. "If I had one [musical hero], it would have to be Stevie Wonder," he told us last summer. "When I was just at that point where you start to get involved in music, Stevie had that run with Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Fulfillingness' First Finale, Innervisions, and then Songs in the Key of Life. Those are as brilliant a set of five albums as we've ever seen." For a lot of us, that was all we needed to know about the difference between the last president and this one: Bush claimed he could look into the eyes of a Bond-movie villian like Vladmir Putin and see his soul. Obama connected with Stevie Wonder's."

*We came to the conclusion (after his glass of red and my bottle of pear cider) that even when Bruce is trying to write up-beat, happy-go-lucky songs, the lyrics can never quite escape the darkness of the human condition. Take "Dancing in the Dark," a song that Bruce's manager and produce Jon Landau requested because Born in the U.S.A. needed a pick-me-up. Bruce and Courtney Cox dance it out in the video like two good-looking kids (his rolled-up sleeves...mmm), but his lyrics don't match the mood:

Message keeps getting clearer
radio's on and I'm moving 'round the place

I check my look in the mirror

I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face

Man I ain't getting nowhere
I'm just living in a dump like this


Stay on the streets of this town

and they'll be carving you up alright

They say you gotta stay hungry

hey baby I'm just about starving tonight

Or more recently, look at "Waitin' On A Sunny Day" from The Rising. Granted, the album was written in the wake of 9/11, but musically the song is so care-free, urging you to roll down the windows and rock side-to-side with the violin. The lyrics, however, make you want to hold yourself and rock back and forth:

It's rainin' but there ain't a cloud in the sky
Musta been a tear from your eye

Everything'll be okay

Funny thought I felt a sweet summer breeze

Must of been you sighin' so deep

Don't worry we're gonna find a way

You're waitin' on a sunny day because things are terrible right now. "Hungry Heart" (which John Lennon called a "great record") is a another example, this time from The River. The song has such a lighthearted, bouncy 50s feel to it that you think you could play it at a school dance. WRONG. These are just the first two lines:

Got a wife and kids in Baltimore jack
I went out for a ride and I never went back

What? You just left your wife and kids? It gets worse. Second verse:

I met her in a Kingstown bar
We fell in love I knew it had to end

We took what we had and we ripped it apart

Now here I am down in Kingstown again

"We took what we had and we ripped it apart"? Boo-wap-shoo-wa, Boo-wop-shoo-wa! And at the end he says, "ain't nobody like to be alone." Then why'd you LEAVE your wife and kids? Minnie Driver actually covered this song as the slow, heart-breaking ballad that maybe it should be, but that's not the way Bruce plays it (literally and figuratively).

Which is why it's funny that Kate Tucker covered his appropriately lusty and brooding "I'm On Fire" from Born In The U.S.A. with a pop-rock beat and light-as-a-feather singing style. What better accompanies the lyrics "Sometimes its like someone took a knife, baby, edgy and dull and cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my soul" than that?


David said...

That reminds me, I listened to a podcast with Seth Meyers (A Steelers fan) who had the inside scoop on Springsteen's Superbowl set. Apparently it was supposed to run twelve minutes and the way they were going to do that is to play an abridged version of Born to Run. Anyway, right before they went on, Little Steven turned to Max Weinberg and said, "So... we're going to play all of Born to Run, right?" Bruce turned to him and said, "Yeah, we're playing all of it."

So they went out, played all their songs and went over by a little under two minutes. I knew Bruce couldn't keep it under the limit!

Maryann said...

That's awesome. It still wasn't enough!