As you must have heard by now, Bruce Springsteen is singing for Barack Obama this weekend, drawing a massive crowd (aimed at voter registration) in Philly yesterday, on to Ohio and Michigan, with a NYC concert with Billy Joel coming up shortly. This political activity is not exactly a shock right now, especially since he also sang for Kerry in 2004. But it continues an amazing evolution I have watched closely since 1972, when I first met "Brucie" --at Sing Sing Prison, no less (full story later) -- and co-wrote the first magazine article about him. For the first few years I knew him I swear I never heard a "political" sentiment escape his lips.
Now he has become a new kind of political "Boss"-- and ready to play a key role in the weeks ahead. As he declared in conclusion in Philly: "So now is the time to stand with Barack Obama and Joe Biden, roll up our sleeves, and come on up for the rising."
Springsteen started his political transformation back in the "anti-nuke" days of the late-1970s. Then, when Born in the USA hit, he spoke out and donated a fortune to Vietnam veterans groups, and from there, many other causes, while refusing to endorse candidates. People remember that he demanded that Ronald Reagan quit using "Born in the USA" as a campaign song but he did not go on the road for Mondale that year.
But his "political" -- in the broadest sense -- focus continued with public statements and many more donations as he recorded his Tom Joad and Seeger Sessions CDs. When he performed for Kerry in 2004, he denounced tax cuts for "well-to-do guitar players."
But backing Barack goes to the next level -- picking a candidate way back in a primary race, and at a key moment. Springsteen, of course, is a rich man now (he's come a long way since that first piece for Crawdaddy in early 1973 that I helped create) but he retains credibility with the "working-class" kids and adults that Obama is trying so hard to reach. It's clear that he offered his endorsement last spring at least partly in response to the then-current media obsession with the "bitter" controversy.
Obama, he now asserts, "has the depth, the reflectiveness, and the resilience to be our next President. He speaks to the America I've envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that's interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit. After the terrible damage done over the past eight years, a great American reclamation project needs to be undertaken. I believe that Senator Obama is the best candidate to lead that project and to lead us into the 21st Century with a renewed sense of moral purpose and of ourselves as Americans."
Bruce did me a solid recently, writing a preface for my new book on Iraq and the media, So Wrong for So Long, but his "solid" for Obama -- runnin' on the Barack streets? -- means much more, obviously. Yesterday, flipping around the cable news channels, just about the only counterweight to all the Palin/Ayers slams at Obama was footage of the Boss singing in his beloved Philly.
I'm sure Obama's team would take the Sarah/Bruce comparison every day of the week.
Video of Saturday's performance: http://firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Greg Mitchell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GregMitch