I've Seen Rock'n'Roll's Future ... Past
I have been a Bruce Springsteen fan since age 12.
I loved his music, especially his first five albums. I still do.
One of the things I loved about him and his music during his early era was that he was apolitical, or at most not overtly political.
As he became more and more political, beginning with his sixth album (Nebraska), I dealt with it. The way he focused on the lives of people affected by events in the USA, rather than going all 60s-radical and singing about politics, made it more palatable. I daresay that this approach made fans of a more conservative bent more receptive to the plight of the people that Bruce sang about and more willing to help out with his charitable efforts.
But then, in 2004 or thereabouts, he pulled his gloves off and went all out, actually going on tour in support of a presidential candidate. That made me want to retch. Not just because of the candidate himself, who I did not support; to me, stumping for any candidate was just as bad as trying to pitch a product.*
And then came his political albums: the "We Hate Bush" album (Magic), the "We Love Obama" album (Working On a Dream), the "We Still Love Obama, But Why Does America Still Suck" album (Wrecking Ball) ... I bought them anyway, because, you know, Bruce.
At the same time, his cultivated "everyman" image became increasingly sour, thanks to his gentleman-farmer lifestyle offstage, and his form of preachy liberalism served to turn off many fans. Perhaps he learned his lesson by the time he released his The River boxed set last year; when he went out on tour to support the album concurrently with the US election campaign, he said nothing about politics, probably realizing that his numbers were not as high as they used to be because of his political outspokenness. I bought and enjoyed the re-released River—mostly because it unearthed a treasure trove of music dating back to the earlier era that I loved.
But once the tour was over, he took his gloves off again. He implicitly endorsed Clinton during an interview—and then he went back onstage, this time in Philadelphia, selling himself out completely for his candidate, to the point of altering some of his most famous lyrics so that they would be about 'her.' That, my friends, nauseated me.
And then his candidate lost. He bet on the wrong horse.
The only thing heard of him since then was the story of his motorcycle breaking down by the highway side, and some local bikers lending him a hand.
Look, I understand that everybody is entitled to their own opinion. Everyone should vote for the candidate they believe reflects their values. I also understand that most musicians and artists are liberals. So I don't begrudge Bruce his support of Hillary Clinton.*
But I still feel the vomit rise in the back of my throat at the thought of him stumping so unashamedly. This past Saturday, when I tried reading a book about him that I bought recently ("Album by Album")—I couldn't finish it, because all I felt was more and more revulsion as I got further into his career, when things became increasingly political. I put the book back on the shelf.
And now I'm putting Bruce on the shelf too.
I'll probably still listen to his earlier stuff, including the related outtakes albums.
But that's it.
(Unless, of course, he learns how to SHUT UP AND SING, and keep his politics to himself. But I'm not holding my breath for that.)
*See, the point isn't whether or not he's liberal. Of course he is, as are most musicians and artists. What I take issue with is the extent to which he stumps for candidates. I find that most politicians carry a certain reek about them—part corruption, part arrogance, part sanctimoniousness—and to align himself with any of them, Bruce paints himself with the same patina. I could stomach and support his liberalism and activism much more when he was not endorsing candidates and touring for their political campaigns, and he focused his efforts on directly helping the very people he sang about, at a grassroots level.