Friday, October 26, 2012

Song of the Week: “Jungleland” by Bruce Springsteen

Song of the Week is, for now, the only feature on Stetson’s Garden. I absolutely love listening to music, and more than that, I love sharing the music I love with other people. So, I plan on showcasing one song at the end of each week and writing about why I love it, why I felt the need to share it, why I think it is a special song worth sharing.

For whatever reason (how about Top-40 radio?), the discographies of musical acts from thirty and forty years ago were filled with really long songs. Zeppelin led the way with Stairway to Heaven; Billy Joel had Scenes from an Italian Restaurant; Elton John had Funeral for a Friend; Dylan had Hurricane; Simon & Garfunkel had The Boxer. Meatloaf barely released anything shorter than six and a half minutes. Then Bruce, of course, had Jungleland. And these weren’t mushy, vague instrumentals (like In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida) that seemed to drone on just to fill the grooves on a record. Like modern day epic poems, these songs told the stories of people, their places and their times.

Again, for whatever reason (now let’s blame “kids these days”), these songs just don’t exist like they did back then. A song like Jungleland was iconic. It defines Bruce Springsteen; it perfectly encapsulates the sound of his band, the message of his lyrics and the efforts of his art. It was the song upon which he rested his hat, a song that could open or close a show. It could get an audience excited for the rest of the show or perfectly top off their emotions before the curtain call.

Anyway, I was reminded of Jungleland when I received notification that Bruce Springsteen had released a political message through his website. Springsteen has never been one to shy away from political issues, nor has he hidden his very liberal values. So, his endorsement of another four years of President Obama is not a surprise. Hopefully it has its intended effect.

As politically active as many Americans are, many seem to wish politics would just go away. Thus, many non-politicians and non-journalists are criticized for sharing unsolicited political opinions. Athletes, fast-food chicken restaurants and musicians have all been scolded by media and citizenry as much for simply sharing their beliefs as they have been for espousing certain types of beliefs. The horrid CEO of Chik-Fil-A, for example, was painted as a bigoted demon by some, but as business moron – who alienated a large segment of consumers with his bigoted beliefs – by all. My twitter feed has been equally filled during every presidential debate by the witty brilliance of stand-up comedians as it has been by the loudmouths telling the comedian to stick to jokes, because only politicians can have an opinion on politics, right?

The perils of telling people to shut up merely because they are voicing an opinion should be obvious. Everyone can, and has a responsibility to, act as a watchdog, a fact-checker, a defender of a potentially constructive perspective (given the perspective isn’t archaic and offensive).

Bruce warns us:

The poets down here don't write nothing at all
They just stand back and let it all be
And in the quick of the night they reach for their moment
And try to make an honest stand but they wind up wounded, not even dead
Tonight in jungleland