The Boss Backs Barack!


Two Powerful Voices

 On the Power of Art in Politics

The fact that singer/songwriter Bruce Springsteen has cast his support behind President Obama is no picayune affair; notwithstanding the attempts of some pundits to dismiss it’s importance.   When “The Boss” sings “We must care for our own;” then stands before a multitude of screaming admirers, looks into the cameras, and tells millions of listeners around the country: “I believe President Obama feels this in his bones!” it matters.

It could even sway white workers to vote for the President in Ohio, where the president already enjoys a commanding lead.   And Bruce is paired with former President Bill Clinton, the wildly popular Elder Statesman of Democratic politics, who is a master political strategist and spell binding orator. But nothing has the power to move people’s emotions like music.

For centuries poets and philosophers spouted lines of wisdom and truth over the strumming of lutes.  The greatest of these became famous troubadours and traveled from town to town spreading joy and enlightenment.  Even in a culturally crass era like today, when our society is moving to the rhythms of a clockwork world, and there seems no place for poets to be somebody, Bruce Springsteen, the Poet Laureate of popular song, is still packin em in everywhere he goes.

It is self-evident that he’s saying something that touches the souls of the people, because unlike jazz or European classical music, which showcase the art of the instrumentalist, popular song is word driven – especially after the rise of the politically conscious song/poets of the 1960’s, led by Bob Dylan.   Bruce has paid the cost to be “The Boss” by writing a stream of songs that combine spiritual depth and intellectual gravitas in such a way that even his ideological enemies find them irresistible as campaign fighting songs – songs that could inspire their partisans to action.

The Republicans made that mistake with Born in the USA, and the Clinton camp made the same mistake during the last Democratic primary campaign.   Chris Christy, the governor of Bruce’s home state, has all but prostrated himself before the The Boss in an effort to get him to perform at some event in his behalf.  I can recall no instance, now or in the distant past, when a powerful politician has so shamelessly genuflected before a poet!  Not even Sweet Willie Shakespeare was so honored.  This is because everybody wants a Bruce Springsteen Song as their rallying cry.

The power of music to move the masses is well understood by students of transformative movements, smart politicians too. That’s why every time a reactionary regime with totalitarian tendencies comes to power in the world they either ban or attempt to control the music.  This is true whether the regime is guided by religious imperatives such as the Islamic governments of Iran and Afghanistan – which banned music from the airwaves – or the German NAZI’s, whose policy was to use all art forms and celebrate artists so long as their art served the objectives of the Third Reich.

Thus film maker Leni Refinsthal and composer Richard Wagner both found favor as heroes of the Reich.  Refinsthal made the classic documentary The Olympiad, which documented the Berlin Olympic Games, and the propaganda film the changed the world: Triumph of the Will.  In the works Richard Wagner, such as The Ring Cycle, Hitler found a model of the preChristian warrior nation whose love of war and conquest found expression in the Nazi Party.  Such is the power of great art to promote political ideals.

Hence the clever ad-men who conjure up campaign propaganda try and snatch sound bites from Springsteen songs even if their overall themes and basic philosophy are ideologically opposed to their candidate’s platform. So rich is the musical offerings in his oeuvre.  That’s why it’s a very big deal that the Boss backs Barack!

Making his Plea for the President

He believes President Obama stands with the people


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

October 19, 2012

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