I well remember 1984, riding with my cousin to see “The Boss” on his "Born in the USA" tour in Lexington, KY. The arena was packed that night, and after playing for about two hours Springsteen looked out at the crowd and asked: “Do you guys need a break?” He then played for another hour. I was in Middle America and there was something in Springsteen’s lyrics that simply held sway over Middle Americans. His songs portrayed the struggles of life and the victory of rising above them.
Perhaps that’s why one of my clearest memories from that night is of Springsteen squared up to his microphone in the spotlight, singing the opening verse to "Thunder Road":
The screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways, Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely, Hey that’s me and I want you only.
Don’t turn me home again, I just can’t face myself alone again
But the Springsteen who sang that song about overcoming in 1984 is nowhere to be found now. He has literally traded in his drive down "Thunder Road" for a Swiss-like welfare state, which he says constitutes his latest dream for what America should be. No joke. During a recent interview in Paris, when asked if he thought “the United States should be changed into something closer to a Swedish-style welfare state’” Springsteen said, “Exactly! That's my dream!“
He then went on to intimate that his desire for such a change in America has been woven into some of his latest songs: “It's written between the lines. But you have to listen very closely.” He said this was especially true of his song, “We Take Care of Our Own.”
And while this goes a long way toward explaining the support he gave Barack Obama’s presidential bid in 2008, it conveys a poor understanding of how America works: for Americans have been taking care of their own for centuries, but they do so through family, churches and charities. They don’t need a top-down solution to “spread the wealth around,” which takes money from those who earn it and redistributes it among the masses (at the government’s discretion).
One more point: Springsteen has more money than he can spend (the gross profit off the "Born in the USA" tour alone was $80-90 million). So if he wants to help his fellow Americans out so much, why doesn’t he write some checks and spread his wealth around?
The bottom line: Springsteen has traded "Thunder Road" for "The Road to Serfdom," and I have no interest in buying tickets for that show.
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