Besides being the second time I voted for President (Reagan, of course), it was also the year that Bruce Springsteen released Born in the USA. I had seen him in concert three times before the release of this album and was amazed at his stamina and control of a crowd. It wasn’t a concert; it was like a tent revival, as the critics said. Before he embarked on the European leg of the tour that year, I saw him in Philadelphia at the Spectrum. Again, a three-hour, no breaks tent revival. Then he went to Europe and returned not a rock singer, but an icon.
And that is where it started to go downhill for Bruce Springsteen for me. His follow-up tour was held outside on a beautiful day in Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium. It was classic Springsteen, but now there were speeches in between. Like so many before him, politics went to his head and he fancied himself the next voice of a new generation. Besides chiding Reagan for using his anthem in campaign appearances, there were now lectures about the Vietnam War (which had been over for more than a decade), the deprived working class, and other cause du jours of the Left.
Which got me to thinking: was I wrong in my adulation of Springsteen previous to 1984? Make no mistake- he made good music. If you can sing along to a song 30 years after its release, it must have stuck in your synapses and for that the songwriter deserves credit. But, by the same token, Springsteen is a charlatan.
Take, for example, his support for the working man. One supposes one can have empathy for the working class without being a member of the working class. After all, most people in academia with a degree in economics or a social science make a living out of it. But, Springsteen is different. His perception of work is picking up a guitar and attaching a harmonica near his anal orifice and blowing through it. Unfortunately for him, Bob Dylan did it first. In between was Neil Young, but at least he actually played the harmonica.
As Springsteen’s career grew, so did his head. He came to believe the Leftist hype he was spewing. Most recently, he’s latched onto the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren inspired class warfare of the “1% versus the 99%.” But like all Lefties, hypocrisy reigns supreme. Springsteen, it turns out, is not in the 1%, but the .0001% since his estimated wealth is somewhere north of $100 million. There is that oft-cited example of Springsteen’s hypocrisy that bears repeating. He pays $138,000 in property taxes on his home and three acres in New Jersey. He owns an adjoining 200 acres and pays less than $5,000 a year. Why? Because he grows tomatoes (and pays someone to do it) and has horses. Under New Jersey law, that classifies it as farmland and he gets a 98% tax break on it.
Most true fans of Springsteen’s politics explain this hypocrisy away in typical ends-justifies-the-means thinking. Because he speaks truth to power, we are told, he gets a pass when he is the power. It is like the Left’s abject ignorance to some of his earlier lyrics which described homosexuals as “fairies,” a pejorative term if you happen to be gay. Says Dan Alexander, a Springsteenologist: “Creative writers use slang, the voices of their stories, to tell those stories. They do not ever have to be politically correct.”
Except in the case of Springsteen, they don’t have to be correct of any kind, politically or otherwise. This self-professed voice of the working man has never worked a day in his life. This champion of the dispossessed blue collar worker is neither blue collar nor dispossessed. This railer against corporate greed is a greedy corporation unto himself. Bruce Springsteen has become a parody of the American Left in all their hypocritical glory.
To sneer at Springsteen is like sneering at mom and apple pie among his followers. After all, this was a person whose lyrical contribution to the American music scene was “At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines.” For that, he’s put right up there with the greatest poets of American history. New Jersey even makes that their unofficial state song making New Jersey perhaps the first and only state to officially condone a song that encourages “getting out (of it) while we’re young.”
If only Springsteen had stuck to singing about screwing New York virgins under the Asbury Park boardwalk I might have more respect for him and his music today. But, elevating himself to the pinnacle of pompous-assedness is one thing. Achieving the title of Hypocrite of the Decade along with being a pompous ass is surely an achievement not to be proud of.