The post election period always brings a bit of a slowdown, so I suppose we’ll get into a dust-up over … Bruce Springsteen.
At the Concert for Valor near the Capitol Building in DC last night, Springsteen joined in with Dave Grohl, and Zac Brown and performed, among other tunes, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son.” The concert, presumably put on during Veterans Day celebrations to honor our troops, was an odd venue for this particular tune, as noted by Ethan Epstein.
Who would have thought that that Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, and Zac Brown, accomplished musicians all, would be so, well, tone-deaf? But how else to explain their choice of song—Creedence Clearwater’s famously anti-war anthem “Fortunate Son”—at the ostensibly pro-military “Concert for Valor” this evening on the National Mall?
The song, not to put too fine a point on it, is an anti-war screed, taking shots at “the red white and blue.” It was a particularly terrible choice given that Fortunate Son is, moreover, an anti-draft song, and this concert was largely organized to honor those who volunteered to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Not everyone was on board with the criticism. One defense was raised by my friend Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway.
The reality, of course, is that songs like Fortunate Son, as well as Springsteen’s own Born In The USA do a better job of speaking about the truths that many veterans of war face than all of the patriotic anthems that the Weekly Standard author likely prefers on a day like yesterday, especially when speaking about the Vietnam era vets that both songs speak to. The fact that some people can’t see that, and falsely paint the song as “anti-military,” says more about the mindset of the author than anything else…
Is there anything that more accurately portrays the reality of who fought in Vietnam, who sent them there, and who was able to get away with not fighting there? I can’t think of another example off the top of my head, but it certainly hits the nail on the head. Indeed, it seems like it could be said to be just as accurate a statement of the forces that were sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. How many of those men were the sons of Senators, Congressmen, or the members of the elite?
I’m not even going to try to second guess what Doug was thinking when he wrote that, but other than having a reflexive dislike of anything to do with military action in general, it is difficult to see how somebody mounts this defense of the choice of music for that particular venue.
A couple of items to get out of the way first:
– I did not attend or watch the concert, but did watch the video today.
– I’m a huge Springsteen fan and have been since I was a teenager. I’ve seen him in concert more than 20 times.
– Regardless of the last disclosure, I don’t automatically forgive anything The Boss does in life or endorse his politics.
– I’ve also listened to a lot of CCR and enjoyed their work.
With all that said, Fortunate Son is an anti-war song. To try to stretch the definition through verbal gymnastics in order to rush to Springsteen’s defense seems ill advised. True, it gets down to the very real specifics of the draft and who was or was not considered for deferments and such while the draft was in effect, but it also generally mocked anyone who supported the war. (e.g. talking about wrapping yourself in the Red, White and Blue while not fighting, etc.) It was a protest song from an era where there were still plenty of anti-war protest songs being written. As such, painting the military structure as some sort of tainted, unfair system doesn’t do much for the morale of the troops and is not exactly a sure fire hit with veterans at such an event.
I can’t read The Boss’s mind and I won’t pretend to know whether that was some sort of intentional message in very poor taste, or whether it was just a song they all liked and decided to play without thinking it through. But it was the wrong time and the wrong place for it. Not the end of the world, mind you, and I’m rather surprised that it’s drawing this much buzz, but still a poor showing.