“He ain’t my boss, no more.”
Something like a subtle yet seismic shift happened last week: I began disconnecting from Bruce Springsteen. It doesn’t compute … even writing that sentence doesn’t feel right.
But something happened … something had to break and it just broke. Something just snapped. I got one too many notifications in my Facebook feed about the much-overhyped Springsteen/Obama podcasts—which I call “Brucebama”—and it just got to be too much. So I went to Bruce’s Facebook page and unfollowed it. And then I posted what I had done on my own Facebook status. That was pretty much a public disavowal of all my years of support of and appreciation for The Boss and his music.
And then I went a bit further: I also left the Bruce-related Facebook groups I was part of. Nothing personal against any friends I still have there, but even there the fawning over “Brucebama” got to be too much.
One of my friends asked me if the music alone counts for anything. I said, in principle, Bruce’s older stuff would count … but when he does things like repurpose his greatest song, “Born To Run,” into a campaign song, it becomes harder to separate the art from the artist. As long as Bruce insists on putting his politics front and center, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to appreciate the music; he cheapens the value of the song and reduces his music to nothing more than hucksterism.
I have lots of friends, former Bruce fans themselves, who have become vocally opposed to the man in recent years. I told them not to be so quick to welcome me into their fold, because for me, this is a sad thing, really. Bruce’s music has been my rock and my refuge during difficult times and a source of immense joy at other, happier times. And let’s not forget how influential his music was on my own artistry, and even in my life. It is very hard to let go of such a thing, which has been such a major part of me for so long.
But when someone I have previously admired keeps doing things I find nauseating—it’s one thing for him to merely have a political opinion, but it’s another thing altogether for him to subserve his artistic talent and output to political candidates and elected officeholders—then I can’t call myself a Springsteen fan anymore. In a way it’s like a divorce: Someone I once loved has metamorphosed into such a dislikeable ‘thing’ that I can no longer live with. But where do I go from here? How far do I go with it?
I can’t even listen to his music anymore. I used to listen to his older music even after his overtly political phase started, telling myself that “that was then,” but even that has fallen by the wayside in the last couple of years. Not only that, I can’t even listen to many of the musicians that are even associated with him (with a few notable exceptions). I went on a bit of a rampage, through Facebook, Spotify, and my Google Chrome bookmarks, deleting playlists and links, shutting off notifications. I kept on going: I gathered up CDs both by him and in tribute to him, books about him, even t-shirts with him on it that I loved wearing, and put them in the donation box. No more. I just can’t. Even the littlest reminder makes me think of the times that were once good, which are no longer. Just like a onetime significant other who has up and left, this person who you once poured all your heart and your soul into having a relationship with, who is now telling you, I don’t care about you or the things that matter to you.
Theoretically, I should have let him go in 2004, once he began stumping for candidates on his “Vote for Change” tour. That’s really when he lost me. But I held on, for old times’ sake. I held on through all the stories of his gentleman-farmer lifestyle, finagling his way out of paying taxes but insisting everyone else pay their “fair share.” I held on through all sorts of rumors of being on both sides of assorted infidelities. I held on while he continued playing the “everyman” while palling around with elitists, acting like a member of the “working class” while living the jet-set, yachting life, and pretending to be about the everyday guy struggling to make ends meet while charging a fortune for tickets to his shows (really, the Broadway self-aggrandiganza was just the icing on the cake) that poor working zhlubs would never be able to afford. I held on for the old times’ sake … because I remembered how much I had loved the music and what it meant to me during pivotal times in my life.
But the Brucebama thing—all the unabashed, mutual asskissery with the former president—was just too much. The bucket just filled up and tipped over. That was it for me. That’s when I said, it’s over between us, I'm gone.
There isn’t any turning back from this. Even if tomorrow he would decide, You know what? I’ll just shut up and sing from now on and give all the people what they want, it would be too late—everything from this point forward is tainted by all the things he has already done.
So now, for me, it’s like he used to sing, when performing one of his much-beloved earlier songs live: “He ain’t my boss, no more.”
And one last note to anyone who may think this is a referendum on Barack Obama: It isn't. I'm not here to debate his merits or lack thereof. My opinions are plain: I did not like the man, not as president, not as citizen. I did not vote for him, I did not support him, and I did not like his policies or actions (and inactions) he took while in office. Whoever takes issue with this is just going to have to deal with the reality that the USA is still a free country and people are free to support or oppose whichever political figures they want without having to explain, justify, or be judged (as “racist” or any other nonsensical epithet) for it just because of such support or opposition.