All the More Reason to Tell the Story

August 29th, 2006 by jeffrey yamaguchi

I love the stories Bruce Springsteen tells in his songs. I came of age when “Born in the USA” was all the rage, and I didn’t know until years later what that song was about. What seemed to be a patriotic anthem was instead a protest song, a shouting critique of the way Vietnam veterans were treated in this country. The story can be told, but you can easily miss the point, because of youth, or ignorance, because you’re just not paying close enough attention, because you refuse to hear the message. I recently was given The Essential Bruce Springsteen collection, and was listening to disc 2, to hear some of those Born in the USA songs, to go back in time and rock to the music of my youth. I was just hanging out and doing busy work around the apartment when “American Skin (41 Shots)” came on about an hour into the album. That is the song about the police shooting of Amadou Diallo, a horrifying, devastating tragedy that occurred in NYC in 1999, an incident that put the spotlight on the horrors of police brutality and racial profiling. I remember how controversial this song was, and how the controversy came to a head when Springsteen and the E Street Band played it live at sold out shows at Madison Square Garden in 2000. I didn’t miss the point of this Springsteen song — And yet, based on the reactionary response six years ago, many people were missing the point, or taking it the wrong way, or reacting in a way that put up walls. The story can be told, but someone’s always going to miss the point, or take it the wrong way. And that’s all the more reason to tell the story.

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