September 11, 2002
For today, I was set
For today, I was set to pan Bruce Springsteen's The Rising. I've been listening to the album for weeks to see if the first pop culture artifact inspired by September 11 adequately conveyed virtuous feelings. For most of my listenings, I've been skeptical. The songs tell stories of the victims and friends and family left behind. What isn't there is the justified anger directed toward our enemies. Al-qaeda methodically planned and funded an attack that turned civilian airliners into human-guided cruise missiles. It was brilliant and horrific at the same time. The closest Springsteen gets is the line, "I want an eye for an eye." He has an entire song devoted to the view of a suicide bomber ("Paradise") but not even a line about a special ops soldier helping liberate Afghanistan. (I'm sure Springsteen has the talent to create some lyric around blazing a laser on a target for an on-coming B-52.)
But then there's "Into the Fire." Through that song, Springsteen honors all those heroes who ran into the fiery towers. One line reads, "Up the stairs, into the fire/I need your kiss, but love and duty called you someplace higher." Those people knew they had loved ones back home. They knew they were putting their lives on the line for others, but it was their duty to go in, so they did.
Then there's the title song. It's an anthem. Drums are beating loud. Guitars are strumming hard. Nils Lofgren is putting his all into the slide guitar. Background singers are singing to God as well as the listener. Energy crackles off that song. You want to pump your fist when everyone sings "Li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li."
"The Rising" is also a spiritual. Springsteen mentions laying hands; Mary's in the garden. The song is steeped in gospel music, and it uplifts.
Continuing on the theme of upliftment and hope is "My City of Ruins." While everything seems hopeless, Springsteen calls the listener to "Come on, rise up!" Even in the darkest of moments there's hope. Even though the towers fells, the Pentagon was scarred, and a field is all that remains of Flight 93, the American Idea survives.
I can't pan a work of art that honestly expressed hurt, sadness, sorrow, and hope. Do I want more artists to take on the myriad of emotions from September 11? Absolutely! We need someone to put America's anger and sense of justice to music, and it has to be more sophisticated than Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue (The Angry American)." As well as proper physical memorials, we need musical pieces to live on long past all of us.
Here's some other reactions to this anniversary: