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Bruce: Music, Politics and Taking a Stand

Bruce Springsteen is gearing up for his overtly political Vote For Change Tour:

    VOTE FOR CHANGE TICKETS AVAILABLE BUT GOING FAST
    The concerts featuring Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band/REM/Bright Eyes, and with a special guest appearance by John Fogerty, went on sale with great results this past Saturday but there are still some tickets left for our shows in Cleveland (Oct. 2); Detroit (Oct. 3); St. Paul (Oct. 5); and Orlando (Oct. 8). For our fans in other markets who are Interested in supporting Vote For Change, we encourage them to check out ticketmaster.com for information on tickets remaining for Vote For Change concerts featuring:

    Pearl Jam/Death Cab for Cutie

    Dave Matthews Band/ Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals/ Jurassic 5/My Morning Jacket

    Jackson Browne/Bonnie Raitt/ Keb’ Mo’

    Dixie Chicks/James Taylor

    John Mellencamp/Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds.

The Boss talked with Rolling Stone about politics, art, and the media:

    Why did you stay away from being actively involved in partisan politics for so long?

    I didn’t grow up in a very political household. The only politics I heard was from my mother. I came home from grade school, where someone asked me if I was Republican or Democrat, and I asked my mom, “Well, what are we?” She said, “We’re Democrats, ’cause Democrats are for the working people.” I was politicized by the Sixties, like most of the other people of that generation at that time. I can remember doing a concert when I was probably in my very late teens, helping to bus people down to Washington for an anti-war demonstration.

    But still, basically, I wanted to remain an independent voice for the audience that came to my shows. We’ve tried to build up a lot of credibility over the years, so that if we took a stand on something, people would receive it with an open mind. Part of not being particularly partisan was just an effort to remain a very thoughtful voice in my fans’ lives.

    I always liked being involved actively more at a grass-roots level, to act as a partisan for a set of ideals: civil rights, economic justice, a sane foreign policy, democracy. That was the position I felt comfortable coming from.

    ….Now you’re asking your audience to think even more about and explore what else you’re saying in your songs.

    There are a portion of your fans who do quite a bit of selective listening. That’s the way that people use pop music, and that’s part of the way it rolls. The upside is that there has been an increased definition about the things I’ve written about and where I stand on certain issues. That’s been a good thing.

    I think that a more complicated picture of who you are as an artist and who they are as an audience emerges. The example I’ve been giving is that I’ve been an enormous fan of John Wayne all my life, although not a fan of his politics. I’ve made a place for all those different parts of who he was. I find deep inspiration and soulfulness in his work.

    Your audience invests a lot in you, a very personal investment. There is nothing more personal, in some ways, than the music people listen to. I know from my own experience how you identify and relate to the person singing. You have put your fingerprints on their imagination. That is very, very intimate. When something cracks the mirror, it can be hard for the fan who you have asked to identify with you.

    Pop musicians live in the world of symbology. You live and die by the symbol in many ways. You serve at the behest of your audience’s imagination. It’s a complicated relationship. So you’re asking people to welcome the complexity in the interest of fuller and more honest communication.

    The audience and the artist are valuable to one another as long as you can look out there and see yourself, and they look back and see themselves. That’s asking quite a bit, but that is what happens. When that bond is broken, by your own individual beliefs, personal thoughts or personal actions, it can make people angry. As simple as that. You’re asking for a broader, more complicated relationship with the members of your audience than possibly you’ve had in the past.

    ….So there wasn’t a moment of doubt in your mind about what the right thing to do was?

    It was something that gestated over a period of time, and as events unfolded and the election got closer, it became clearer. I don’t want to watch the country devolve into an oligarchy, watch the division of wealth increase and see another million people beneath the poverty line this year. These are all things that have been the subtext of so much of my music, and to see the country move so quickly to the right, so much further to the right than what the president campaigned on – these are the things that removed whatever doubt I may have had about getting involved.

    ….What do you think of how the election is being covered and conducted through the press?

    …The free press is supposed to be the lifeline and the blood of democracy. That is the position of responsibility that those institutions have. Those things are distorted by ratings and by money to where you’re getting one hour of the political conventions. No matter how staged they are, I think they’re a little more important than people eating bugs. I think that for those few nights, the political life of the nation should take priority, and the fact that it so casually does not means something is wrong. If you want to watch people eating bugs, that’s fine, I can understand that, too, but let’s do it on another night.

    Real news is the news we need to protect our freedoms. You get tabloid news, you get blood-and-guts news, you get news shot through with a self-glorifying facade of patriotism, but people have to sift too much for the news that we need to protect our freedoms. It should be gloriously presented to the people on a nightly basis. The loss of some of the soberness and seriousness of those institutions has had a devastating effect upon people’s ability to respond to the events of the day.

    ….So you feel the call from your heart?

    Yeah, I can hear the bells chiming. I’ve had a long life with my audience. I always tell the story about the guy with The Rising: “Hey, Bruce, we need you!” he yelled at me through the car window. That’s about the size of it: You get a few letters that say, “Hey, man, we need you.” You bump into some people at a club and you say, “Hey, man, what’s going on?” And they go, “Hey, we need you.” Yeah, they don’t really need me, but I’m proud if they need what I do. That’s what my band is. That’s what we were built for.

And that’s what you’re great at Bruce, but do you really think the ultimate purpose of all that emotional and spiritual capital you have built up with your audience – your people – over 30+ years is to stump for John Kerry?

Seems an odd way to spend that capital to me, but it IS his capital and he seems to well understand the risks and the dynamic. I hope it’s worth it to you, Bruce. I’m still on your team, but I think this is a mistake; I think it reduces you, and I would feel the exact same way if you were doing it for Bush.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: [email protected]amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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