Bruce Springsteen may have told Rolling Stone it would have made for "the most boring album in the world," but there was definitely a faction that was hoping his "Letter To You," released just weeks before the 2020 election, would contain at least a few broadsides aimed at our current president. Given the indignation Bruce managed over the Bush administration on 2007's "Magic," it seemed like taking down Trump would have been a slam dunk.
Turned out, though, that's not where Springsteen's muse took him this time around: Instead we got a sometimes rollicking, sometimes melancholy but always engaging meditation on aging, lost friends, the healing power of music and the lure of nostalgia -- not to mention a trip on the wayback machine to some tracks a fresh-faced Bruce first penned when Nixon was still in office.
But that's not to say he was ready to let this election fall by the wayside. For one thing, he hasn't shied away from the topic in "Letter To You" interviews, with his joke about moving to Australia if Trump wins eliciting a wave of out-of-context headlines and drawing ire from online Trumpsters questioning his patriotism. (Never mind that Trump the next day floated the idea of leaving the country himself if Biden wins ... No word if he'd take his supporters with him, but we can dream.)
And even prior to that, Springsteen let author and anti-Trump filmmaker Don Winslow use "Streets of Philadelphia" for a clip with the sole purpose of shoring up Biden's chances in Pennsylvania.
But if you had any doubts, all you had to do was listen last Wednesday to Episode 14 of "From My Home to Yours" on SiriusXM, "Farewell to the Thief." Maybe his most stirring episode yet, Bruce doesn't mince words: “A good portion of our fine country, to my eye, has been thoroughly hypnotized, brainwashed by a con man from Queens," he says. "And you mix in some jingoism, some phony patriotism, fear of a black planet, vanity, narcissism, paranoia, conspiracy theories, and a portion of our nation undergoing mass delusions and teetering on violence, and you’re left with the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime."
It's one of the shorter episodes -- under an hour -- so it's worth tracking down to listen before Tuesday, or at least reviewing Jay Lustig's masterful transcript at NJarts.net. If nothing else, you need to hear Springsteen recite a gut-wrenching poem by Elayne Griffin Baker that ends with these stanzas:
We are rudderless and joyless.
We have lost priceless cultural aspects of society that make America great.
We have lost our mojo. Our fun, our happiness.
The cheering on of others.
The shared experiences of humanity that makes it all worth it.
The challenges AND the triumphs that we shared and celebrated.
The unique can-do spirit Americans have always been known for.
We are lost.
We have lost so much in so short a time.
That about sums it up. But Bruce didn't stop there, also releasing a statement about voting over a photo that look distinctly like a certain "Greatest Hits" album cover.
He doesn't come out and say who to vote for in that clip, although it's not hard to surmise. But for anybody not clear on the subject, he left no doubts in the video he released Saturday, set to "My Hometown" and aired during Saturday's Penn State/Ohio State game by Joe Biden's campaign.
In the clip, Springsteen declares that Biden is running "to give working people the shot they deserve: an honest living for honest work. And a little peace of mind at the end of the day." Two goals that really couldn't be more Springsteen-ian.
Thanks to COVID-19, there will be no last-minute acoustic performances in front of throngs of potential voters for this election. But with his own impassioned words, shared nationwide, what Bruce is bringing to the table this year might be all the more effective. Regardless, it shows that anyone who thought Bruce Springsteen might sit this one out hasn't been listening.
Oh ... and VOTE!