What’d I Say: Props to the Boss

Posted November 8, 2012 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

During heated presidential election contest, Springsteen proves why he is the Boss

A small snapshot of Bruce Springsteen music resting in my library / Photo: J Matthew Cobb

My first real encounter with Bruce Springsteen’s catalog of music, of course, comes with being a child growing up with the MTV generation. “Glory Days” and “Hungry Heart” proved to be essential listening for me as a kid. Later on in life as a young guy working retail, the power of Muzak created an inescapable appetite for more of the Boss’s product. To me, he felt like a cooler Dylan with an well trained ear for pop and Phil Spector productions. That eventually led me to pick up the classic Born to Run LP, which I gladly possess in LP, compact disc and mp3 form. Consider me a true fan of the Jersey boy.

One day while crate digging for vinyl at Charlemagne Record Exchange, I ran across a 7” inch version of “My Hometown,” lifted off the singer’s coveted Born in the U.S.A. album. It even included the original cover art. Inside that sleeve was a tune containing poignant lyrics comprising a story filled with warmhearted childhood memories and melancholic small town blues. What once was a bustling town is now doomed by textile mill shutdowns and the grave loss of jobs – something that seems so real in many parts of Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and in the bulk of common-known steel and coal towns.

“Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores/Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more,” Springsteen sings on a very bittersweet melody languished with consistent drum beats, a comforting acoustic guitar and a slightly suppressed synth. It’s a lyric that fittingly describes just about any American city fighting to stay open for business after the Dubya era sponsored two wars and forced the economy to the brink of yet another economic depression. With Barack Obama elected, Americans not only made history in electing America’s first black president, but also turned the page on its future. Obama signaled hope, change and an opportunity to make things better. A lot was accomplished, despite the rhetoric that comes from Fox (“faux”) News. Without listing all of President Barack Obama’s accomplishments, in just four years America banished “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” ousted Bin Laden for good, bailed both the auto and banking industry from disaster, signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to promote equal pay amongst genders, avoided another costly war and delivered on his promise to create affordable health care – something that presidents before him only envisioned but failed to enact. Plus the stock market has recovered, the housing marketing is improving and the unemployment numbers are dropping. These are all pivotal signs that Obama’s administration is creating positive results. And I’m sure these are the things that appeals to Bruce Springsteen’s ideologies for a better America.

When I read earlier this year that Springsteen was a bit disappointed in Obama’s first term, I shared a bit of his distress. The young senator from Chicago had accomplished a lot in the White House, but it still seemed as if he hadn’t done enough, at least from Mitt Romney’s projections. Springsteen mentioned that he didn’t want to hit the Obama campaign trail this year as he did the first time around. That was understandable. But 2012’s Wrecking Ball, a powerful tour de force that pronounces the same breed of resilience decorating his past landmark albums, may have been the leading benefactor behind Springsteen’s change of heart. Weeks away from November 6, Springsteen joined the growing chorus of musicians hitting the campaign trail for Obama. Suddenly, songs like “We Take Care of Our Own” and “Wrecking Ball” had new meaning. That endorsement may have been the single most important one Obama could ever receive. Not just because he’s the Boss, but because Springsteen – like Obama – embodies the American dream. And you can honestly feel his love for home in his music, his lyrics, his stage presence and his iconic enormity.

After Superstorm Sandy ravished the surrounding cities of Springsteen’s old hometown in New Jersey, he amped up his work schedule with multiple campaign trips and musical tributes to Sandy’s survivors on telethons. Down in the trenches of the recovery efforts was Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, who showcased a colorful display of bi-partisanship with the blue state’s Democrats and a highly concerned president. Of course, Christie’s ability to work with Democrats has served him well as a respectful moderate within his base, but when he unveiled a litany of high praises for Obama during Sandy’s aftermath, it easily angered conservatives and his fellow peers – especially during a very tight election. Christie didn’t care about the naysayers and haters. What mattered to him mostly were those in whom he serves.

Photo courtesy of Barack Obama / Instagram www.instagram.com/barackobama

While in midflight aboard Air Force One, Obama called the New Jersey mayor to discuss recovery efforts. Right before the conversation ended, Obama teased Christie with some much needed hometown love. “Governor, this is Bruce,” a voice said from the background. It was Bruce Springsteen. Christie has proclaimed himself numerous times to be a diehard fan of Springsteen. Christie actually sung “Thunder Road” with Jimmy Fallon on Sept. 4 this year on an appearance of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The governor has admitted to seeing Springsteen live over 130 times, a feat that even the mildest Springsteen fan has a hard time reaching. On the other hand, Springsteen isn’t a big fan of Christie, not by a longshot. They simply don’t share the same views on politics. But the heartbreaking devastation attached to Hurricane Sandy may have eroded some of that tenseness.  “We hugged,” Christie said to a crowd of relief volunteers in Monmouth County, according to the Record. “Yeah, we hugged and he told me it’s official—we’re friends.” Christie even mentioned that it was “even better” to talk with Springsteen than it was to talk with President Obama. The two united on a NBC telethon to help raise monies from Sandy survivors.

And that right there is the proof. During what seemed like a tumultuous and typically draining period for Christie, the power of Springsteen was able to lift up his spirits. And witnessing the Boss on the campaign trail with Obama raised all of our spirits. It helped us to believe again. It inspired us to make America better and stronger. His presence alone in the American mosaic is just as comforting as a bag of Golden Flake chips at a Crimson Tide game.

In the world of music, Springsteen has been a champion for those loosely forgotten. I recently stumbled on an article published in Oprah’s O magazine where Gayle King exalted Springsteen to being “DJ Bruce” for his amazing knowledge of Southern soul music. King had no idea the genre existed. When interviewing Darlene Love earlier this year, she spoke of just how important Springsteen was to her and how he advocated for her to enter the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. “I had a very big advocate behind me,” Love said. “I can always give him the credit for being inducted into the Hall of Fame. He’s the greatest.”

In closing, let me say that I know it’s not easy being the boss, whether you’re a CEO of a small business or the boss of rock n’ roll. For Springsteen, jumping on Obama’s bandwagon may not be the easiest decision for a musician hoping to reach the multitude, but Springsteen fights passionately for what he believes in. And that right there is what being an American is all about.

At the end of the day, we all wish we had a Bruce Springsteen living in our household. I know we all wish we could get a hearty hug like Christie did. Thank God we have his records.

What’d I Say is a public opinion series focusing on recent events featuring commentary from our team of skillful writers and guest bloggers. The opinions expressed at this forum are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the parent company HiFi Magazine.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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