A lot happened in the world in the seven years since the 1995 release of The Ghost Of Tom Joad. Bruce Springsteen was now in his early fifties. He had made a decision to record a full album with his old cohorts, The E Street Band, for the first time in years. The events that would have the most effect on his new album and would forever change American society were the tragedies of September 11, 2001. The Rising would be Springsteen’s response.
Bruce Springsteen has had the unique ability to present the American experience through words and music better and clearer than just about any artist. The Rising would find him far from the themes of girls, cars and character studies that dominated his previous albums. His introspective thoughts which led to the creation of most of the songs on this release would tap into the American psyche and soul, and would provide a poignant perspective on the events of 9/11.
It is the tracks that are related to 9/11 that form the heart of the album. “Into The Fire” is both a somber and uplifting tribute to the firemen and policemen who went into the two towers and sacrificed their lives. “Nothing Man” is from the point of view of a person who loses his life and is ultimately a commentary on mortality in general. “Empty Sky” is the eternal picture of the empty New York skyline. The title song is a transcendent anthem of heroism. What is all the more amazing is that the words are clocked in some of the best music that Springsteen has produced.
There are several other quality songs. The album’s first track, “Lonesome Day,” is a song that builds while supported by strings and percussion. At the other end of the album is “My City Of Ruins” which brings The Rising to almost a spiritual ending. In between is my personal favorite. “Mary’s Place” is a group effort that just rolls along as it celebrates life.
I have been moved by the starkness of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. and seen oil bubbling up from the Arizona in Pearl Harbor over 60 years after its sinking. I’m sure that someday there will be a fitting memorial in New York City that commemorates The Two Towers. It is to Bruce Springsteen’s credit that he was able to create his own personal tribute through his music. Six years after its release, The Rising remains thoughtful, poignant, and haunting as it explores a seminal event in American history.
Bruce Springsteen also proves that every once in a while rock ‘n’ roll can be more than just entertaining. It can be important as well.