Bruce Springsteen Dedicates Radio Show to George Floyd, Denounces ‘Unfeeling’ White House Response While Country Is ‘On Fire’

Bruce Springsteen Variety Power of New
Danny Clinch for Variety

If you’ve been waiting for someone to deliver a comprehensive state of the nation address, Bruce Springsteen had one on his SiriusXM radio show Wednesday. And, unsurprisingly, he found the state of the union not strong, going so far as to say the country is “on fire and in chaos,” with a White House that can offer “only the most tepid and unfeeling response” to coronavirus deaths as well as racial strife.

After playing his own police brutality-themed “American Skin (41 Shots),” Springsteen didn’t back-announce the song title, but he did back-announce the running time: “Eight minutes. That song is almost eight minutes long. And that’s how long it took George Floyd to die, with a Minneapolis police officer’s knee buried into his neck. And that’s a long time. And that’s how long he begged for help and said he couldn’t breathe. The arresting officer’s response was nothing but silence and wait. Then he had no pulse, and still it went on.”

He offered a sad dedication for the anthem. “That goes out to Seattle, to New York, to Miami, to Atlanta, to Chicago, to Dallas, to Philadelphia, to Washington, to Los Angeles, to Asbury Park, to Minneapolis and to the memory of George Floyd. May he rest in peace. As we speak, 40 million people are unemployed. One hundred thousand-plus citizens have died from COVID-19, with only the most tepid and unfeeling response from our White House. As of today, our black citizens continue to be killed unnecessarily by our police on the streets of America. And as of this broadcast, the country was on fire and in chaos.”

That was all the segue he needed before going into an equally pointed song of outrage from his catalog: “Murder Incorporated.”

Springsteen also spun a song he co-wrote with Joe Grushecky back in 1995, “Idiot’s Delight” — a lament for humanity from on high, with the key refrain, “How did something so beautiful turn into an idiot’s delight?”

But original material accounted for only a little of Wednesday’s satellite radio playlist. The other tracks Springsteen played,were explicitly or implicitly protest songs — including the 20th century’s most famous song about lynching, using to frame a death he called a “21st century visual lynching”:

“Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday
“This is America” by Childish Gambino
“Who Will Survive in America?” by Kanye West
“Burnin’ and Lootin'” by Bob Marley
“Blind WIllie McTell,” “Political World” and “Murder Most Foul” by Bob Dylan
“In My Hour of Darkness” by Gram Parsons
“My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”
Martin Luther King’s 1963 Birmingham speech

Speaking to the violence that attended some of the marches this week, Springsteen called this “the cost that we’re paying for another half of a century of unresolved fundamental issues of race. We have not cared for our house very well. There can be no standing peace without the justice owed to every American regardless of their race, color or creed. The events of this week have once again proven that out.”

And he spoke to “the original sin of slavery. It remains the great unresolved issue of American society. The weight of its baggage gets heavier with each passing generation. As of this violent, chaotic week on the streets of America, there is no end in sight.”