My New Book!

My New Book!
My New Book!

Thursday, March 23, 2023

March 23, 2023: Bruce on the Blog: “American Skin (41 Shots)”

[This week, I finally get to cross off one of the very top items on my bucket list—seeing Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in concert with my sons! In honor of that truly momentous occasion, I wanted to share a handful of the past posts where I’ve featured Bruce on the blog—leading up to a special weekend reflection on the concert!]

On two more reasons I have come to love my long-time favorite song.

I’ve written on at least two prior occasions in this space, as well as at length in the opening of my second book, about Bruce Springsteen’s “American Skin (41 Shots)” (2000; I still prefer that 2000 Live in New York City version to any subsequent one, although this post-Trayvon Martin performance from 2012 comes very close for sure). But I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned in this space a very cool complement to my own love for the song: my younger son’s early and continuing affection for it as well. Of course that began with my playing it for the boys, but I’ve played plenty of songs for them, and it was “American Skin” that really grabbed my son and has endured across many years and many other shifts in musical taste. To hear him sing along to my favorite lines—“We’re baptized in these waters/And in each other’s blood”—has been one of those singularly moving moments that parenting can offer.

So that’s one way I’ve come to love Springsteen’s song even more fully. But another is the reason I’m highlighting it today (NB. when I first shared this post in February 2018): this afternoon I’ll be giving Fitchburg State University’s biannual Harrod Lecture, focusing on the topic of my book in progress, We the People: The 500-Year Battle over Who is American (2019). I’ve been thinking about those themes pretty much nonstop for the last couple years, and I’m not sure I’ve encountered a cultural work that more succinctly and powerfully highlights both of them than does “American Skin.” Even the title alone features both ends of the spectrum: Amadou Diallo was killed because of the color of his skin and what it meant to certain other Americans; but by calling it his “American skin,” Springsteen reminds us that those racist and exclusionary attitudes do not and cannot deny Diallo his full participation in an American community and identity. That we still so desperately need to hear that message is just one more reason to keep listening to “American Skin (41 Shots).”

Last Bruce blogging tomorrow,


PS. What do you think?

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