He’s on my mind and my Spotify playlist because I listened to the event on last Wednesday that he hosted.
I also spent time on Saturday afternoon listening to the “E Street Radio” on SiriusXM and was reminded of some of his powerful songs which speak to this time period.
The most compelling for me is “Across the Border” from his mid-1990’s “Ghost of Tom Joad” album.
I am touched by the hope at the heart of this song. It’s the hope for a better tomorrow beyond the borders which divide.
It takes me back to the 1990’s when I led two groups of high school students to Tijuana, Mexico.
One of the most powerful moments of a couple of “immersion” trips full of stunning moments was going to this place:
It’s the Pacific Ocean with the border wall jutting out about a hundred yards. We stood on the Mexican side (foreground) and looked through the wall to the U.S.
The U.S. , as seen from Tijuana by the migrants we spoke with on this beach, looked like this song:
What Springsteen is illuminating through this song is more than the dream of the migrant or immigrant. I think it’s really much larger – it’s a more just, compassionate world where kindness and radical hospitality reign.
And as the NYT project I mentioned in my previous post is exploring, this can be the core of the America which is forged in this current crisis.
The final Springsteen song on this section of my playlist is the titular song from the aforementioned “Ghost of Tom Joad”
Singing with Springsteen is Tom Morello, lead singer of Rage Against the Machine who recorded a blistering cover of this song:
The beginning of this “Rage” version is worth watching because it shows the famous “Mad as Hell” scene from the film “Network”
One more version of this powerful song as performed by a legendary singer with relative newcomers, along with an exploration of the song’s meaning.
I think it’s these lyrics near the end of the song which strike me – especially as we are likely facing a time of economic depression and increased hardship:
Now Tom said “Mom, wherever there’s a cop beatin’ a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there’s a fight ‘gainst the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me Mom I’ll be there
Wherever there’s somebody fightin’ for a place to stand
Or decent job or a helpin’ hand
Wherever somebody’s strugglin’ to be free
Look in their eyes Mom you’ll see me.”
There’s four more songs by The Boss which I believe speak to this moment. The next two are about “days.”
I think Springsteen is such a powerful songwriter because he sings of profound realities of the human condition – especially during this time of social distancing:
Hell’s brewin’ dark sun’s on the rise
This storm’ll blow through by and by
House is on fire, Viper’s in the grass
A little revenge and this too shall pass
This too shall pass, I’m gonna pray
Right now all I got’s this lonesome day
And yet, even on this “lonesome day” he can sing of the hope he has in what is still to come:
Let kingdom come I’m gonna find my way
Through this lonesome day
Also, what is more metaphorical for hope than a “sunny day?”
I include this next song on my playlist b/c although it was composed and released before September 11, 2001, it was one of the songs which became an American anthem to help our nation though the shock and fear in the wake of the attacks:
I include this version he performed before President Obama’s first inauguration because of how cool it sounds acoustic and with the choir (the video quality isn’t great though)
Finally, this song needs no explanation. It’s just one of the great songs of hope and protest from his “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions” released in 2006.