I asked Variety’s music writer and critic, Phil Gallo, to weigh in on the impact of the Springsteen endorsement. Here’s what he wrote (also posted at his blog, the Set List.)
“I stayed a step away from partisan politics because I felt it was always important to have an independent voice. I wanted my fans to feel like they could trust that. But you build up credibility. … And I think there comes a time when you feel, all right, I’ve built this up and it’s time to spend some of this. And I think this is one of the most critical elections of my adult life, certainly. Very basic questions of American identity are at issue. Who we are. What do we stand for? When do we fight? As a nation, over the past four years, we’ve drifted away from, I think, very mainstream American values.”
That quote comes from Bruce Springsteen. It was not, however, part of his statement Wednesday endorsing Barack Obama for president – it is the words he spoke to Ted Koppel four years ago when he made his first-ever endorsement of a political candidate, John Kerry.
In that interview, Springsteen was keen to say he was not suggesting an “anyone but Bush” strategy, although the tenor of his language suggested a disappointment in the running of the country rather than an endorsement of an individual. Although he would eventually perform at a Kerry rally in Ohio and allow Kerry to use “No Surrender” as a theme song, his endorsement was nowhere near as forceful as the words he used to support the Obama candidacy.
“He has the depth, the reflectiveness, and the resilience to be our next president,” Springsteen wrote on his website. “He speaks to the America I’ve envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that’s interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit. A place where ‘…nobody crowds you, and nobody goes it alone.’ “
Prior to getting behind candidates, Springsteen was a stickler for staying on point, whether it be joblessness, the environment, veterans affairs or his most enduring cause, hunger. (Local food banks have had collection stations at his concerts since the early 1980s and he always alerts his audience that they are present). Post-Katrina, he made his first performance ever at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, a political statement unto itself and, like many of his points and causes, strictly American.