You expect rock stars to be liberal, even stridently leftist. Like movie stars, they don’t experience reality the way you and I do because they are hedged off from it behind phalanxes of security guards and ridiculous income levels. And their heedless naivety is, in a way, part of their childlike Peter Pan charm; they never outgrow their angry-high-schooler phase because in most cases they went directly from high school to show business.
Take Bruce Springsteen, who has been a professional musician since his late teens and has never held any other meaningful job. Springsteen sees himself as a liberal tribune of the working class in the mold of John Steinbeck and Woody Guthrie, and his humble working-man shtick is appealing enough. His increasingly politically pointed songs aren’t his best work, but he has every right to perform them, though they threaten to cost him fans who don’t necessarily go to a rock concert in pursuit of nakedly partisan and somewhat droning appeals.
What he should not do is what he does on his latest album, which is to advocate violent revolution, class-and-politics-based bloodshed, and the murder of bankers and perhaps other capitalists.
Surely I’m exaggerating? I wish I were.
The Springsteen album released March 6th contains some of the most inflammatory and inexcusable rhetoric ever heard in a major pop star’s work. Even the 1960s upheavalists were rarely this reprehensible.
To celebrate the ascendancy of Barack Obama, in 2008 Springsteen wrote a song in praise of, and to, the then-presidential candidate. In “Working on a Dream,” Springsteen sang, “Out here the nights are long, the days are lonely I think of you and I’m working on a dream.” It’s a bouncy ditty — not much of a song compared to his shadowy epics like “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” — but even those who didn’t vote for Obama hoped he would be a good president.
Now Springsteen evidently feels his dream has been betrayed, and instead of blaming Obama, the “you” he sang to in 2008, he blames…Wall Street.
The new album quickly proceeds to a series of savage denunciations and explicit calls for violence.
On the second track, which is called “Easy Money,” Springsteen sings:
There’s nothing to it mister, you won’t hear a sound
When your whole world comes tumbling down
And all them fat cats they just think it’s funny
I’m going on the town now looking for easy money
I got a Smith & Wesson .38
I got a hellfire burning and I got me a taste…
True, Springsteen has written many times about lowlifes and crime — songs like “Atlantic City,” “Johnny 99” and “Meeting Across the River.” Often these songs are in the first person. But it was always completely obvious that a character, not Springsteen, was talking. Springsteen himself has never been a gangster, never urged these songs on his audience as imperatives.