Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Boss & The King

Bruce "The Boss" Springsteen with his long-time drummer, Max Weinberg, souce-, public domain/fair use claimed
Greetings All:

Yesterday was the 4th of July, Independence Day.  I hope you all had a great day and are recovering from sunburns and any other...minor self-induced ailments from the day.  I had an experience yesterday that inspired this post.  Here goes.

As I was driving back from the grocery store, I tuned into "E Street Radio" on Sirius XM.  I figured who better to listen to than "The Boss."  I just happened to catch him covering Elvis "The King" Presley's "Fools Rush In."  It's a great song, enhanced even more by the uniquely gravelly voice of the Boss.

I have no doubt that hundreds of times yesterday Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." was blasted across backyards and PA systems.  Of course, like many of Springsteen's songs, it's not a happy-campy song.  Those of you who are old enough to remember the 1984 campaign, President Reagan referenced the song in a manner that did not sit that well with The Boss.  If you want to read more about that, here's a pretty good article on it:

I don't want to get into that issue on this blog post as that will inevitably extend this post well past a thousand words.  I will say that Bruce Springsteen has earned his place in modern American music.  He's an icon in his own right.  The fact he covered Elvis, America's first modern music Icon (feel free to take issue with that one) is great.  In that short car ride yesterday, I thought it was a fitting tribute to America on America's birthday. 

Elvis, "The King" Presley in his famous, "Jailhouse Rock" photo,, public domain.

Here's the link to the excellent blog post I found on the subject of The Boss & the King, courtesy of Ryan Hilligoss and Shawn Poole.  I tried to pick out one or two quotes, but the article (damn it, :)) is so full of them, I could not decide.  Please check out their post here, it's got some great photos as well:

I suppose the reason that The Boss & the King are so important to American music is that one laid the groundwork for the other.  Elvis opened the door to America's challenges with "In the Ghetto."  Springsteen busted it off its hinges with his work, his brutally honest assessment of the America that doesn't make it into Hallmark cards.

One of Springsteen's more haunting songs (and he's got more than one) is "Independence Day."  Here are the lyrics:

"Well Papa go to bed now it's getting late
Nothing we can say is gonna change anything now
I'll be leaving in the morning from St. Mary's Gate
We wouldn't change this thing even if we could somehow
Cause the darkness of this house has got the best of us
There's a darkness in this town that's got us too
But they can't touch me now
And you can't touch me now
They ain't gonna do to me
What I watched them do to you

So say goodbye it's Independence Day
It's Independence Day
All down the line
Just say goodbye it's Independence Day
It's Independence Day this time

Now I don't know what it always was with us
We chose the words, and yeah, we drew the lines
There was just no way this house could hold the two of us
I guess that we were just too much of the same kind

Well say goodbye it's Independence Day
It's Independence Day all boys must run away
So say goodbye it's Independence Day
All men must make their way come Independence Day

Now the rooms are all empty down at Frankie's joint
And the highway she's deserted clear down to Breaker's Point
There's a lot of people leaving town now
leaving their friends, their homes
At night they walk that dark and dusty highway all alone

Well Papa go to bed now, it's getting late
Nothing we can say can change anything now
Because there's just different people coming down here now and they see things in different ways
And soon everything we've known will just be swept away

So say goodbye it's Independence Day
Papa now I know the things you wanted that you could not say
But won't you just say goodbye it's Independence Day
I swear I never meant to take those things away" 

I'm half-Irish, so I do my best to be an optimist, at least until the facts force otherwise.  Yes, "Independence Day" is a sad song.  However, it's also an honest one.  We as Americans have a lot to be proud of.  Yet we also have some work to do, in some cases, a lot of work.  When we listen to the music and lyrics of Elvis Presley and Bruce Springsteen we can hear both the promise and the challenge of our nation.  We can take comfort in the nostalgia of the King's music.  We can also embrace the challenge of fixing what's messed up in Springsteen's songs.  Perhaps that is what makes their music so special and worthy of being played on Independence day...and everyday.

Be well my friends,

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