So a couple of a months ago I bought a new car (don’t worry, this will come together). It’s about 5 years old so does not come with an AUX jack for the car stereo. This means that until I replace the stereo I can’t just plug in my MP3 player to listen to my own tunes. Oh sure, I’ve burned a few mix CDs but it pales in comparison to the sheer volume of music that I’m used to having 24/7 access to.

What this means is that I listen to the radio a whole lot more often than I used to. There are like 5 music radio stations that you can pick up in Montreal, if you cut out top 40 stations you have 2: The Buzz and CHOM. In highschool and even college the Buzz was the usual choice, but more often than not they program garbage. More and more I find myself just resigning myself to CHOM, I mean, classic rock ain’t that bad, right?

So a few days ago I heard the new track from Bruce Springsteen, “We Take Care of Our Own”. I tuned in just in time to hear the last refrain. I was a little perplexed to say the least, hearing the Boss spout the following lyrics again and again:

We take care of our own
We take care of our own
Wherever this flag’s flown
We take care of our own
We take care of our own
We take care of our own
Wherever this flag’s flown
We take care of our own

Now, I know that Springsteen has more or less made a career out of singing songs that at first listen make you (if you’re American) want to pump your fist and immediately go to war that upon further reflection are actually a harsh criticism of government and American society, so I was a little taken aback. It’s no secret that “Born in the U.S.A.” was (and still is) completely misappropriated in numerous ways to instill patriotism when the song is actually about a working class Vietnam war vet and the complete mishandling of the war and the vets’ return stateside.

Maybe this was the same sort of thing? I didn’t think much of it, though I occasionally heard it again on the radio and always had that same nagging reaction. Did The Boss sell out? Did he just say “Fuck it, I’m 62 years old, everyone thinks I love everything about America I’ll just give them what they want and sell a million records.” It didn’t make matters much better that Springteen’s already unbelievably raspy voice has just gotten more growly with age, making understanding his lyrics the same uphill battle you face when you try to help an old person with directions.

So I went ahead and looked up the lyrics to find out if, much like many others, The Boss had turned his back his roots. The first thing I found out was the Springsteen still writes his own music, he also performed guitars, banjo, piano, organ, drums and percussion on the track. Both of these things are awesome. Next I found the rest of the lyrics:

I’ve been knockin’ on the door that holds the throne
I’ve been lookin’ for the map that leads me home
I’ve been stumblin’ on good hearts turned to stone
The road of good intentions has gone dry as bone

From Chicago to New Orleans
From the muscle to the bone
From the shotgun shack to the Superdome
We yelled “help” but the cavalry stayed home
There ain’t no-one hearing the bugle blown

Attaboy-Bruce.

40 plus years after he started making music Springsteen still has a message. I honestly feel pretty bad for the guy. He started making music in the 60s. Growing up in New Jersey his music has always been about working-class America and the problems that they face. I really think he loves his country, but hates the way that it’s run and the way it treats its citizens. I can imagine that as a youth he probably thought that better days are ahead, now in his 60s the country’s in a worse state than ever in the past 100 years. He must be a sad old man.

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