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Thursday, November 24, 2011

November 24, 2011: Giving Thanks 4

[This week I’ll be highlighting American things for which I’m thankful. Feel free to suggest your own topics in the comments, or send your own guest posts to me by email []. This is the fourth in the series.]
In my inaugural Thanksgiving Day post last year, I wrote about, and tried to push back against and complicate and revise, Rush Limbaugh’s oversimplified version of the holiday and the Pilgrims. Whatever the influence of Rush’s particular version, though, the fact remains that Thanksgiving, like virtually all other American holidays and prominent occasions, exists in our collective consciousness as at best a mythologized narrative dimly connected to any specific historical or cultural details; since the holiday mostly means some combination of good food, family gatherings, and football, those mythologizing tendencies might not seem like such a big deal, but they’re certainly not an ideal way for us to engage with the national stories and communities to which the occasion might connect us. Fortunately, we’ve got historians like one of my Monday subjects, Karl Jacoby, who are willing to write complex and rich but also clear and engaging pieces like this op-ed for the Los Angeles Times on the history of Thanksgiving—just another reason I’m thankful for Jacoby!
So with my fellow AmericanStudier having done that heavy lifting, I’m free to focus this second Thanksgiving Day post on a piece of news from earlier in the week that makes me very thankful on at least three distinct but equally meaningful levels. First, the news: in a brief statement on, Bruce and the E Street Band revealed that they’ll be releasing a new album sometime next year and going on a US and world tour shortly thereafter. Now, the three levels of thankfulness:
1)      For the Music: In the aftermath of Clarence Clemons’ unexpected and far too premature passing, about which I blogged here and here, I genuinely wondered whether the Band would release any more albums; I didn’t think Bruce could stop writing and making music in other ways, but the thought of no more Band music was still pretty depressing. I’ve grown up with the E Street Band in every conceivable way, and sure am excited to know I’ll be able to keep growing with them into 2012.
2)      For the Inspiration: The E Street Band goes way beyond just my own lifetime, of course, both literally and figuratively. The core group has been making music together since 1973, with the only breaks coming when Bruce has worked on other projects, and thus without the “breakup and reunite for a reunion tour” vibe that has affected virtually every other longstanding rock band. But their longevity is about a lot more than just time or consistency—when keyboardist Danny Federici passed away a few years ago, the band responded in the best ways possible: by honoring him at the start of concerts, by recording a song in his honor on their subsequent album Workin’ on a Dream (2009; the song, “The Last Carnival,” includes an accordion played by Federici’s son!), by continuing to carry the torch and do what he and they did and do so well together. Pretty inspiring stuff.
3)      For the Boys:  As my kids have gotten into Bruce and the Band over the last few months, they’ve both asked me on multiple occasions whether we can see them in concert sometime; one of their early favorite songs is “American Skin (41 Shots),” and a lot of what they love about it connects directly to the live performance details. (The way they say “Clarence!” when he sings the song’s first line and then later during his beautiful concluding solo is about as cute as it gets, and makes me even sadder that they won’t get to see the Big Man in action.) I’m not sure if, at 6 and 5 years old, they’ll really be ready for a rock concert if and when the Band comes to Boston on this tour—but I’m also not willing to pass up the opportunity to find out!
Thanks, Bruce and the Band, for so many great moments and memories and some more on the horizon! And Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and yours! More tomorrow, the last of the series,
PS. Links above, so I’ll repeat a final time this week’s request: any American things you’re thankful for? Ideas, and even guest posts, still very welcome!

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