Posts Tagged ‘Springsteen’

Rahm, Bruce, and Hava Nagila

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Jeffrey Goldberg, reporter for the Atlantic, has the scoop of the century on his blog. According to Goldberg, Bruce Springsteen played Hava Nagila at his Washington, DC concert last week — thanks in large part to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Here’s a link to the story.

As Goldberg tells it, a guy named Clifford Mendelson, who had recently met Bruce, went to the concert holding a “Hava Nagila” sign — urging Springsteen to play it. I’ve been to a dozen or more Springsteen shows, and can safely attest to the fact that normally, people show up with “Rosalita” or “Murder Incorporated” or “Jungleland” signs. This might have been a first.

Anyway, Rahm saw the sign, and loved it, and handed it up to NY Times columnist David Brooks, who handed it to a Secret Service agent, who handed it up to Bruce on stage. Springsteen loved it, too, and promptly played it! Here’s the priceless YouTube video.

As Goldberg writes:

There are those in Israel who say that Rahm is insufficiently zealous in his Jewishness. I think Mendelson’s story is an appropriate response to such a charge.

Or, as Springsteen might put it: Rahm believes in the promised land!

(Cross-posted on NJDC’s blog here.)

Springsteen: ‘Let’s Go Get It’

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Springsteen nailed it.

And I’m not talking about the Superbowl halftime show — though he certainly nailed that also.

Here’s what Springsteen told the New York Times, for an article that ran yesterday:

“A lot of the core of our songs is the American idea: What is it? What does it mean? ‘Promised Land,’ ‘Badlands,’ I’ve seen people singing those songs back to me all over the world. I’d seen that country on a grass-roots level through the ’80s, since I was a teenager. And I met people who were always working toward the country being that kind of place. But on a national level it always seemed very far away.

“And so on election night it showed its face, for maybe, probably, one of the first times in my adult life,” he said. “I sat there on the couch, and my jaw dropped, and I went, ‘Oh my God, it exists.’ Not just dreaming it. It exists, it’s there, and if this much of it is there, the rest of it’s there. Let’s go get that. Let’s go get it. Just that is enough to keep you going for the rest of your life. All the songs you wrote are a little truer today than they were a month or two ago.”

Really, it didn’t seem possible, did it? That seven years after 9/11, we could elect a half-black man with Muslim relatives; less than two years after Saddam Hussein was executed, we could elect a man with the same middle name; a progressive, who believes in honoring organized labor and elevating science and safeguarding civil liberties and promoting the rights of women and minorities and engaging, actively, with the world.

And, yet, we did.

That fact alone, Springsteen is saying, tells us something about ourselves that we thought was true — that we thought was possible — but, in our heart of hearts, we weren’t totally sure.

Springsteen is saying — god damn; who the hell knew? — these things turn out to be true:

Now there’s a fire down below, but it’s coming up here …

Someday girl I don’t know when, we’re gonna get to that place where we really want to go, and we’ll walk in the sun …

Leave behind your sorrows, let this day be the last. Tomorrow there’ll be sunshine, and all this darkness past …

And for every, hung up person, in the whole wide universe. We gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing …

Still at the end of every hard earned day people find some reason to believe …

Gonna be a twister to blow, everything down, that ain’t got the faith to stand it’s ground …

There’s treasure for the taking for any hard working man, who will make his home in the American land …

I believe in the hope and I pray, that someday it may raise me, above these badlands …

What Springsteen is saying is: This election has given something to the world that can never be taken away. Because if these things are true, then there’s so much more that’s possible.

The rest of the dream is there, too.

Just that is enough to keep you going for the rest of your life.

Springsteen: ‘Now is the Time to Stand With Barack Obama’

Monday, October 6th, 2008

My brother-in-law invited me to Columbus this weekend to see Bruce Springsteen singing for Obama, and I got in the car, rolled down the windows, and let the wind roll back my hair.

Well, I got in the minivan. The windows were, up, technically, but I had the AC on. I made it to Columbus from Akron in just over two hours, only stopping twice to pee.

I don’t know, Bruce. Maybe we ain’t that young anymore.

There are days, even in a 20-month-long election campaign — moments, really — that stand apart. They’re sublime. You know even when they are happening that you’ll remember them long after the last votes are cast. Today was one of those days. A breath. A palliative. A restorative moment with nary a pundit in sight.

For a neurotic democrat from Central Jersey, a tonic.

It’s hard to describe the day. Fall, on the Ohio State campus, but cloudless — warm. Alive with hope. A line of people waiting to get onto the lawn, more than a football field long. People wearing Obama pins and shirts. Firefighters for Obama Biden. Ohio Education Association for Obama. Another Clintonville Voter for Obama.

“Are you guys all up to date with your voter registration?” a kid with a clipboard asks.

To get inside, we have to fill out our name and address on a ticket, then rip it and hand it to them — one more way for them to collect names, emails, cell phones of supporters.

An American flag, maybe 100-feet long, hangs from a crane on the Oval. Soon, the lawn is over-flowing with people, students mainly, but also workers, parents, with little kids on their shoulders.

The Columbus mayor, Michael B. Coleman, is first on stage to fire up the crowd. “They’ve moved off the issues and they’re going negative,” he said, of McCain-Palin, imploring us to show courage, to knock on doors, get on the phone, get on the Internet “Let’s let America know that we can not take four more years of George Bush and John McCain.”

Next came Sen. John Glenn, an Ohio hero, followed by a group of six local Ohioans who had knocked on 4,000 doors in two days, earning the right to stand on stage before the Boss. A short video followed. Obama came on near the end, and the whole place cheered for his image on the giant video screen.

And then Bruce walked out, hugged John Glenn, and strode to the mic. “It’s not everyday you get introduced by John Glenn,” he said.

Typical Bruce: He followed with a few lines from the classic Byrds’ song, “Hey, Mr. Spaceman.”

He started his set with Promised Land …

The dogs on Main Street howl
’cause they understand
If I could take one moment into my hands

… and I thought: That’s why we’re all here today. That’s what we’re doing.

He moved from there to the Ghost of Tom Joad, with its haunting images of John Steinbeck’s Depression-era dust bowl.

Shelter line stretchin’ round the corner
Welcome to the new world order
Families sleepin’ in their cars in the southwest
No home no job no peace no rest

When he finished, he said that someone backstage reminded him he was in Columbus for the first time in 1973, opening up for Sha Na Na.

“Not many people remember Sha Na Na,” he said. “Not many people remember 1973 — I’m impressed.”

“We were here four years ago,” he added, when the laughter died down — a reference to the tour he did for John Kerry in ’04. “This time, we’re winning.”

And the place roared. When the cheering subsided, he eased straight into Thunder Road.

Show a little faith, it’s magic in the night

Then, a gem, one of my all-time favorite Springsteen songs: Youngstown. A poetic retelling of the rise and fall of a great American steel town. As he sang, a long, lazy sun-lit spider web floated over the crowd.

Well my daddy come on the Ohio works
When he come home from World War Two
Now the yard’s just scrap and rubble
He said, “Them big boys did what Hitler couldn’t do”
These mills they built the tanks and bombs
That won this country’s wars
We sent our sons to Korea and Vietnam
Now we’re wondering what they were dyin’ for

“We were in Pennsylvania yesterday,” he said, before the next song. “I don’t have to tell you” how important it is for Obama to win Ohio. “Oh,” he said, “we were praying last time.”

From there, onto No Surrender.

We learned more from a three-minute record

He paused — held the line — and laughed, and thousands of students on the Oval laughed with him

then I ever learned in school.

“Maybe that just says something about me, I don’t know,” he added, interrupting the song, sunlight glinting off his guitar. “Early Alzheimer’s has long ago set in.”

No retreat, baby, no surrender …

When he finished, he looked out at the audience — a large, but much more intimate gathering than the stadiums and arenas he’s used to filling — and made his pitch. I include it here in full, because it is so eloquent, so on-target. It may come from an aging Jersey rocker who once sang “I hid in the clouded wrath of the crowd … when they said ‘Come down’ I threw up”, but it’s as important an endorsement of Barack Obama as any I’ve heard.

“I’ve spent 35 years writing about America, its people, and the meaning of the American Promise,” Bruce began …

The Promise that was handed down to us from our founding fathers, with one instruction: Do your best to make these things real. Opportunity, equality, social and economic justice, a fair shake for all of our citizens, the American idea, as a positive influence, around the world for a more just and peaceful existence. These are the things that give our lives hope, shape, and meaning. They are the ties that bind us together and give us faith in our contract with one another.

I’ve spent most of my creative life measuring the distance between that American promise and American reality. For many Americans, who are today losing their jobs, their homes, seeing their retirement funds disappear, who have no health care, or who have been abandoned in our inner cities. The distance between that promise and that reality has never been greater or more painful.

I believe Senator Obama has taken the measure of that distance in his own life and in his work. I believe he understands, in his heart, the cost of that distance, in blood and suffering, in the lives of everyday Americans. I believe as president, he would work to restore that promise to so many of our fellow citizens who have justifiably lost faith in its meaning. After the disastrous administration of the past 8 years, we need someone to lead us in an American reclamation project. In my job, I travel the world, and occasionally play big stadiums, just like Senator Obama. I’ve continued to find, wherever I go, America remains a repository of people’s hopes, possibilities, and desires, and that despite the terrible erosion to our standing around the world, accomplished by our recent administration, we remain, for many, a house of dreams. One thousand George Bushes and one thousand Dick Cheneys will never be able to tear that house down.

They will, however, be leaving office, dropping the national tragedies of Katrina, Iraq, and our financial crisis in our laps. Our sacred house of dreams has been abused, looted, and left in a terrible state of disrepair. It needs care; it needs saving, it needs defending against those who would sell it down the river for power or a quick buck. It needs strong arms, hearts, and minds. It needs someone with Senator Obama’s understanding, temperateness, deliberativeness, maturity, compassion, toughness, and faith, to help us rebuild our house once again. But most importantly, it needs us. You and me. To build that house with the generosity that is at the heart of the American spirit. A house that is truer and big enough to contain the hopes and dreams of all of our fellow citizens. That is where our future lies. We will rise or fall as a people by our ability to accomplish this task. Now I don’t know about you, but I want that dream back, I want my America back, I want my country back.

So now is the time to stand with Barack Obama and Joe Biden, roll up our sleeves, and come on up for the rising.

He launched into The Rising, his post-9/11 anthem, with its searing image of firefighters heading up the dark, smoky stairwells of the Twin Towers …

Lost track of how far I’ve gone
How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed
On my back’s a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile line

… and the message of the song takes on new meaning, new urgency, as Springsteen’s words reverberate: We need someone to lead us in an American reclamation project … someone with Senator Obama’s understanding, temperateness, deliberativeness, maturity, compassion, toughness, and faith, to help us rebuild our house once again.

For an encore, he sings This Land is Your Land, opening with Obama’s mantra: Yes we can!

Only this version closes with a new verse, words that drift out over the field where sunlight streams. “I saw my people,” Bruce sings …

and some are wonderin’ … if this land’s still made, for you and me.

“Sing loud if you’re gonna take it back,” he says.

I can feel the beat in my feet, through the grass, rising up from the dirt.

“Let’s let ’em hear in Washington!”

Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!

“It’s up to you now, come on!” he says, the last chords fading out. “Vote for Barack Obama for president. Let’s build that house. Yes, we can do it!”

My Obama Minute: Killer Voter Registration Tool

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

My sister got married this weekend in Princeton, NJ. It was one helluva wedding, and the party was pure my sister, pure Jersey.

(Thus the Neurotic Democrat’s four-day hiatus.)

By my count, James the DJ played 6 Springsteen songs over the course of the night, starting with Brilliant Disguise; moving to Glory Days (the first big sing-along) followed immediately by Rosalita. Later, he played Jersey Girl and Born to Run.

Toward the end of the night, bride, cousins, sisters, family and friends were singing every word to every song. We formed a circle and put our arms around each other like we were back in our college dorm rooms. We dipped and weaved, pumping our fists in the air, emphatically making every last one of Bruce’s points. We played air sax and air guitar and air piano, E Streeters, one and all.

So use it Rosie! we insisted. That’s what it’s there for!

At midnight, the DJ called it quits — turning the music off and putting the lights up — only to surprise us a moment later with an encore of his own: Thunder Road.

It’s a town full of losers, we said, punctuating the night … and I’m pulling out of here to wiiiiiiiiiiin!

Come to think of it, sometimeswhen I think of this election, that’s exactly how I feel.

Woke this morning with a killer sore throat and a married little sister. Go sis!

All of which is to say that My Obama Minute today was, actually, about a minute. But it was a very cool minute.

After receiving an email from the Obama campaign, I logged on to . I’d recommend you do the same. Essentially this is a quick and very easy tool — you can email it around to friends and family — that lets you know whether you are currently registered to vote, and, if you are not, you can register, right away, no fuss.

It literally took me under a minute using the site to find out that I was currently registered in Akron, OH. And it immediately gave me all the information I need to vote in Ohio, including what forms of ID are acceptable and my polling hours.

Apparently, the Obama team has already registered 200,000 people this way. Their goal is one million — so they need your help.

Send this link to everyone you know. Right away. I’m serious. Tell them it will only take a minute. It’s one more way we can win this election.

So that some day we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny.