Devils, Dust, and Dignity

Bruce Springsteen is one of this country’s leading poets, songwriters, and voices. I consider him a source of reason in an unreasonable time, when imagination, poetic language, new ideas, and great songs seem hard to find as this government rushes into war, empire, and economic excess (the rich are very rich; the poor very poor).

My wife Trini and I went to see Bruce on Monday, May 2 at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood where he did a wonderful solo acoustic set (some electrical guitars, but also piano). It was a fantastic transcendent evening. His songs – even some of his rockier well-known ones like “Youngstown” – were slowed down, thoughtfully, artistically. Trini said they were like prayers. He also performed many from his latest CD “Devils and Dust,” and the words resonated, the stories touched our stories, and his banter in-between some of the songs felt more urgent and politically edgy then before. It was exactly what we needed. His courage in the face of a hardened, intractable right-wing assault on government and the media – seeming to scare most performers and celebrities from risking dire social commentary – is admirable. He doesn’t have to do this. Nobody does. That’s why I respect this man and his music.

Bruce took great leaps and chances to organize musicians and other artists against Bush in the last election. That’s exactly what we all needed. I’m sure he’s paid a price for it. But there are many people like Trini and me who hunger for these words and songs. Thank you, Bruce, for being the logic in the mathematics of chaos that politics today has become.

Integritas, gravitas, and claritas – what all artists have to work with in their shaping of the world: integrity (the proper relationship of the parts to the whole), gravity (the weight of the issues, concerns, themes, and connections that has be properly balanced so it’s not too weighty, not too light), and clarity (precise language, story, execution). Bruce does this well. I also have to thank writer and long-time Springsteen biographer Dave Marsh and his wife Barbara Carr for being such good friends over the years – you just get me, you just get my work. That’s truly a gift.


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