Monday, October 04, 2004

Divider on Highway 9

Bruce Springsteen has taken an incredible amount of heat over his decision to headline the "Vote for Change Tour." The tour which will play 37 shows in swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida features The Boss, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., John Fogerty, Dave Matthews, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, BabyFace and the Dixie Chicks among others, will benefit the progressive political group ACT which seeks to unseat George W. Bush on November 2.

I was not surprised by the immediate reaction from the firebreathing far right neoconservative movement. The usual shouts of "he's a traitor" "unamerican" "a dumb rock weirdo" were thrown his way and one extremist group in Long Island even attempted an ill-fated boycott of Bruce. None of this surprised me.

What did surprise me was the incredibly rapid, harsh and unrelenting campaign of hate directed at Springsteen from his hardcore fan base. This reaction was to be found in many media outlets including newspapers, on tv and most especially on Internet bulletin boards. The harshest was to be found on homestate website's ( Springsteen forum.

From the moment the tour was announced the board was lit up with venom being spewed from Springsteen fans who felt betrayed. Announcements like BURNING AND SELLING MY COLLECTION - WILL NEVER GO TO ANOTHER SHOW - SHUT UP AND PLAY YOU HAS BEEN - SPRINGSTEEN'S CAREER IS FINISHED became de riguer (you can look through the June, July and August backlogs of the forum for the endless diatribes).

Lengthy and nasty fights were had by the naysayers and the staunch supporters.

Apparently we have become so bitterly divided in half over politics, war and social mores in the US that not even the fellowship, camaraderie and common ground created by 35 years of great music could survive Bruce's preference for one candidate over the other.

Notwithstanding the absolute silence met with political opinions shared by right wing artists like Bruce Willis, Dennis Miller, Lynard Skynard and the Ramones (Johhny and Dee Dee were staunch conservatives or the political ascendancy of people like Arnold Schwartzenegger, Ronald Reagan and Sonny Bono among others) the cry for ARTISTS have no right to express political opinions ran rampant.

It got even worse when these same reactionaries parsed every part of Bruce's life. His upbringing, his earned wealth, his supposed hypocrisy in having become successful, his home in Rumson, his charitable work. It was as if 35 years of love grew into an intense hate overnight for half his audience.

I still patronize all of the abovementioned conservative artists, but apparently a declaration of opinion that in any way digresses from the right wing platform gets you a place at the top of the "enemies list" on the right.

This alll seems incredibly reactionary, small-minded and tribalistic on the part of these longtime Springsteen fans. It also looks like an incredible display of ignorance and historical revisionism when it comes to Bruce's music and Rock and Roll in general.

Rock and Roll from its inception has been anti-establishment. It has been about change from the status quo. It has been the soundtrack for people looking for not only entertainment, but a social, cultural, fashion and political outlet and a sense of belonging to something outside the mainstream. Art throughout the ages has been an agent of change. Painting, sculpture, music, theater, film, they have all reflected the time, places, pathos and ethos of those who created it and at the same time changed them.

They all have a grand tradition of not accepting the staus quo but flipping it on its head. DaVinci took on the entire Catholic Church and the long held beliefs of centuries and was declared a heretic. I could provide you with hundreds more examples if you like. Rock and Roll is no different.

Rock and Roll, from its overt challenge to the social mores of the 50s, its fueling of the youth and counterculture of the 60s, the social excesses of the 70s, the punk rock and new wave explosion of the 80s and the reaction to technology and hyperconsumerism in the 90s has always been the music and credo of the counterculture.

Yes, it's a business, but beneath the veneer in its truest essence it is not the music of the Christian Coalition, GWB or the establishment. Bruce and his music have always been in tune with this ideal. People of all political and moral beliefs have, do and will love Bruce and his music. But make no mistake, his music, his ideals, his passions have always been within the true spirit of the artist as social mover. The artist as the outsider. The artist as the representative voice of the disenfranchised, the hopeful, the dreamers. If you are at all surprised by his move to support an alternative to GWB, you haven't been paying very close attention to a 35 year career.