Saturday, September 29, 2007

We're Livin' In the Future, and None of this Has Happened Yet

image credit: screenshot of YouTube video by Cujo359

Bruce Springsteen is one of rock and roll's great poets. His songs are stories that use the mundane images and events in our lives to tell profound truths about ourselves. In the terms a twenty year old man would think, "She's The One" says that of all the things young men find attractive about women, humanity is often the least of them. "Born In The USA" tells the story of a blue collar guy who got into trouble, was sent to Vietnam, and then returned to find little in the way of help or employment to illustrate how we treated both our returning veterans and our feelings about that war. Springsteen tells his stories using the simple language of rock. Rock and roll is no place for polysyllables, as nearly anyone but Neil Peart will tell you. For that reason, I think, there's a tendency among the faux-sophisticated to assume that Springsteen's songs are only about cars, girls, and rock and roll. If that's true, then opera is only about shrill fat women in helmets.

Taylor Marsh has the YouTube video and a description of Springsteen's appearance on the Today Show yesterday. In this song, the refrain of which is the title of this article, Springsteen uses the imagery of a fading relationship to symbolize our own fading relationship with our country, and our wish to forget the sins of the last few years and get back to being who we really are. In his introduction to the song, Springsteen says:

It's kinda about how the things we love about America - cheeseburgers, French fries, the Yankees battling Boston ... the Bill of Rights, trans fat and the Jersey Shore ... We love all those things ... But over the last six years we've had to add to the American picture rendition, illegal wiretapping, voter suppression, no habeas corpus, the neglect of our great city New Orleans and the people, and an attack on the Constitution, and the loss of our best young men and women in a tragic war. This is a song about things that shouldn't happen here happening here." And so right now we plan to do something about it, we plan to sing about it. I know it's early but it's late so come and join us.

[h/t Taylor Marsh, who transcribed much of this]

It's a speech, which is often a tiresome thing at a rock concert, but songs and the occasional line in a TV show is the only way we get to explain what's happening in this country nowadays. Do you think neocon spokesmodel Matt Lauer will be chatting with anyone who talks about these things? Not bloody likely.

And it's a Springsteen kind of speech, which sure beats a stammering, nonsensical George W. Bush speech any day.

UPDATE (Oct. 3): Here's a link to the lyrics of "Livin' In The Future".


Anonymous said...

Livin’ In The Future is a great song.
I love the references to Bush…
You come walkin’ through town… Your boot heels clickin’ like the barrel of a pistol spinnin’ round.
And the entire last paragraph about a lost cowboy… it is so fitting.
But the lyrics that I’m most struck by, and curious about… are in the second to last paragraph. To me these lyrics speak about Israel, with lyrics like…
the earth it gave away, the sea rose toward the sun…
(Biblical, a world gone wrong)
I opened up my heart to you it got all damaged and undone…
(How the US unequivocally backs Israel as they under mind us, making their enemies our own.)
My ship Liberty sailed away on a bloody red horizon…
(The USS Liberty? If you don’t know about USS Liberty you should wikipedia it.)
The groundskeeper opened the gates and let the wild dogs run.
(Ever since the beginning of the Iraq War the Israeli government has let the IDF run wild)

I know it’s impossible to know exactly what a songwriter is saying through abstract lyrics. But if I’m right, this is taboo stuff. Especially in this country! You got to hand it to Bruce, he’s got guts, lets hope the media doesn’t try to spill them.

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Cujo359 said...

The U.S.S. Liberty strikes me as a bit of a stretch, but I suppose it's possible. The more straightforward explanation would seem to be that it's just a metaphor - something that's prevalent in Springsteen's music.

I've posted a link to the lyrics in the update, by the way.