Saturday, June 24, 2006

Bruce Springsteen - Old Dan Tucker (Live - Indianapolis)

This post is meant

a.) to establish a "immidiate-response-to-comments" doctrine for this blog (Dont't rely on it, though, as I change my doctrines on an almost daily basis.)

b.) to thank commenter Don for the pointer to "springsteen + seeger" - youtube vids and

c.) to try out youtube's "Blog Video" feature

(Update: It works! I only had to fix the entry title.)

My last Springsteen session was 17 years ago. Looks like "the boss" deserves a second chance.

In the video, Bruce Springsteen, addresses the audience in Indianapolis by saying:

We are few, but we are mighty!

Applies for this blog as well, me thinks.


Don said...

I thought you would like that, Marian. I was astounded how much was there - and how good it is. A couple of the videos are too dark and too far away but the rest of them seem to have been professionally produced. As promos for the Seeger Sessions tour and the CD release perhaps.

Watching these videos I was struck by two things (apart from just how good this all is). The first thing is how this band is a fusion of much of the best in the American musical tradition. The songs are traditional American folk tunes - although I suspect that English and Australian folk music would also work well in this format (particularly the latter). The band is all 'natural' instruments many of which are traditionally used in folk and country. But the brass section is new and lends almost a Dixieland Jazz flavor to the whole thing. Reminds me of some of Paul Simon's best work in a way.

The second point that came to mind is political. I know that it's quite a leap from a European perspective - but American political radicalism has always been deeply rooted in patriotism.

Er, I mean sucessful political radicalism as opposed to what we have seen since the 1960's in the US - which has been a rolling disaster from the 'progressive' POV.

One needs to look back a ways in US history to see this. In the 30's it was the Roosevelt Democrats who were seen as the true patriots. The folk muses of the day were Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.

There was a bit of a rivalry between two musical visions of America: Guthrie's "This land is Your Land":

and the older America The Beautiful:

There is a political vision to 'This Land is Your Land' both in the verse and in the last two stanzas.

Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen are examples of this strain of American patriotism. Cash was very patriotic and religious - a christian to the core though a highly fallible one. He was also a leftist in some ways - but not a modern one at all. Very much a 30's style progressive I think.

The modern US left has lost ground in large part because it lost that connection with the people - that love of country. And if the US left ever makes a real comeback it will be through reconnecting with that sense of patritism and religious faith. It simply can never win by trying to import European attitudes to the US.

Thus I find a kind of political significance to the Seeger Session tour and hope to see more of this kind of thing, not only in a musical sense but also in Hollywood, letters, and most of all - politics. If it happens I might well be switching my political affiliation late in life....

Marian said...


thanks again for the pointer. And I agree with your statements re Springsteen, Cash & patriotism. We have a big fat patriotism debate right now in Germany, because of the soccer thing. That's another topic for another day, as MM would say ;-).

Joerg - Atlantic Review said...

Check out this new performance of Bring Them Home by the Boss.

Here's a recent interview. The Boss gives some arrogant answers to some stupid questions. This time I like arrogance.

Don said...

Arrogant? I wouldn't call that arrogant. Springsteen may have an arrogant reputation because he is opinionated and because of the stupid nickname 'The Boss'. He's nobody's 'boss' for the same reason that Pete Seeger was nobody's boss - it runs counter to the deepest strains of his character.

I'm not an obsessive fan of Springsteen to be sure - but my strong impression is that arrogance isn't one of his major vices. Self-confidence? To be sure. He has good reason for self-confidence I think. He's arguably the best and most influential rocker since the Beatles.

I like Springsteen a good deal despite his political opinions. You read that right - despite! I don't agree with most of what he said in that interview, but like the fact that he felt free to say it. No arrogance in that - he's not insisting that anyone agree with him or putting them down if they do not. Unlike the Dixie Chicks I always felt with Cash and Springsteen that we meet on the battleground of ideas as equals.

When I purchase music politics doesn't come into it; what is important is whether I like it or not.

There is stuff of Springsteen's that I won't touch - same with Cash. Cash turned out a lot of mediocre work during the 70's and 80's, but his Sun stuff, the prison albums, and the American Recordings years from 1993 on are all top-notch stuff and I own or will own all of it.

Same with Springsteen. I'm working my way through his catalog now. I think he lost his way after 'Tunnel of Love' before that I like almost everything except 'The River' and 'Born in the USA'. I kinda even like those albums but won't play them if I buy it - so why buy it?

The Seeger Sessions is the best album he's done since 'Tunnel' though it's a much different thing than he's ever done before. He may be going the same way as Cash did. Cash could still write good songs as he aged but he got a lot slower at it. So on the 'American Recordings' albums Cash used a mix of traditional folk songs, pop songs other singers had made famous, some of his old songs, and the best of some of the music written by modern writers such as Nick Cave, U2, and others. I could see Springsteen go the same way, because the man can still sing and perform and even write. It's just that it's difficult for him to write enough good songs for an album of his own stuff these days.

Joerg - Atlantic Review said...


I admit "arrogant" is not the right word. I just did not know how to better describe the way he laughed. Anyway, I think this kind of "arrogance" was appropriate, althought it did not come across as so sympathic for my ears, but that is just my opinion.

Anyway, I like Springsteen. Both his politics and his music, incl. 'The River' and 'Born in the USA'. Ron Reagan abused Born in the USA, but I still like it. Great work out music.

Don said...


I respect that. I can best illustrate how I see Springsteen in the context of the Dixie Chicks. I'd never heard of them until 2003 when Natalie Means said she was "ashamed to be from Texas" in reference to Bush.

Free speech to be sure - followed by a LOT more free speech in the form of ex Chix fans setting fire to or driving a tractor over their collections of Chix CD's in public.

The Chicks released a new album this year and started a big tour. The CD is doing fairly well but the tour has had to cancel in a bunch of places. Natalie Means doesn't think much of it all.

I seriously thought of buying the new album because Rick Rubin the producer. Rubin is a long-hair bearded freak from LA who resurrected Johnny Cash's career and produced an album with Neil Diamond's best work since the 60's - so I'll take a long look at anything he does. I ran the demo tracks at and decided that there was way too much bitterness on that album. Maybe the next one, we'll see.

Contrast that with Springsteen's reaction to his ex-fans destroying CDs. Amusement and a shrug. Unlike Means, Springsteen understands that it's not all about him.

There are ways to exercise free speech which respect the free speech of others. You have mastered it and I hope I have also. Means needs another year in the school of Hard Knocks I think....

Joerg - Atlantic Review said...

Thank you, Don.

I respect that too.

It is my understanding that her name is Natalie Maines, because she is not so mean.

But she can be angry. She acknowledged once that her "ashamed to be from Texas" comment was made when she was performing in London during a Europe tour right before the Iraq war and that she was surround by angry war protestors all the time, i.e. you can blame her comments on us Europeans ;-)

Anyway, I think the debates were pretty heated and her comments let to some tough reactions ("traitors" etc) and it all got blown out of proportion.

I got the feeling the Chicks are now trying to benefit from it all by making a political album for the first time. However, I have not really looked into all these issues, thus I might be wrong.

Don said...

Joerg, the Seeger Sessions are actually far more political than the Chicks album.

It's hard to explain to someone who didn't grow up in the US during the 60's, but the choice of songs on that album is compellingly political.

'We Shall Overcome' was Martin Luther King's anthem and still has the power to bring tears - even to a grizzled old cynical conservative like me. 'Eyes on the Prize' was another King anthem. 'Old Dan Tucker'? Just listen to the lyrics: "Get outta the Way Old Dan Tucker! Your too late to get your supper"!

What do you think that's about? He's OLD! Probably too old, so they don't want to feed him.

John Henry is about technology displacing working men and the workers being discarded although the lyrics Springsteen uses aren't as compelling as the Cash lyrics from the San Quentin prison album. Even so - I hear the message. It's happened to me and will again because I keep fighting.

In contrast the Chicks album is almost completely nonpolitical. The only controversial topics are bitter songs about how their fans abandoned them and other country artists failed to back them up. Nothing about war, social injustice, or economic injustice.

The marketing of the albums reverses the field. The Seeger Sessions is an intensely politcal album marketed nonpolitically as American folk. The Chicks in contrast marketed their unpolitical moan-a-thon politically - but with nary a mention of Bush.

I think Springsteen has the surer touch and better judgement here - just as Johnny Cash did with his American Recordings series. People like me buy, listen, and are moved to think again about a few things.

Cash recorded a song titled 'The Mercy Seat' on the 3rd album which is about the most subversive thing I've ever heard! It's about the death penalty from the POV of the inmate. Jerks your heart out - at least it did mine. I'm now undecided about the death penalty largely because of that song - and a few other things.

Marian said...

Thank you for this discussion, gentlemen! Very entertaining.