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January 30, 2008

Take a Sad Song & Make it Better: Another Week Purchasing Music


Pressed, I would define spirituality as the shadow of light humanity casts as it moves through the darkness of everything that can be explained. I think of Buddha's smile and Einstein's halo of hair. I think of birthday parties. I think of common politeness, and the breathtaking attempt to imagine what someone else is feeling. I think of spirit lamps.

--John Updike

I watched Bush's final State of the Union address yesterday. It was a mistake. I had just purchased Bruce Springsteen's Storytelling concert DVD, released just a little while back to coincide with his Devils and Dust album, and it lay on my desk unwatched. The lame duck President's 45 minute address took sorry precedence.

$2billion was pledged to combat global warming, and Pelosi rose to her feet far quicker than Cheney to applaud Bush's comment that the US would not accept genocide in Sudan. The other 40 minutes were spent examining Cheney's face for signs of life, and waiting for cut-shots to Obama, who was proudly standing next to his most recent endorsee Ted Kennedy.

How much sparkle and light will Camelot beam onto Obama? As much as the American people want it to, and these have been some dark times indeed. I'm betting that Americans will incline to recall Jack's youth, vitality, and his sole inaugural speech over that national nightmare in November and Chappaquiddick. Let's see. Super Tuesday is less than a week away.

What won't be so easily forgotten by Black Americans will be the gunning down of its leaders in the time after Camelot. Things really do fall apart. Between JFK's assassination in 1963, and Bobby's five years later, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were gunned down in cold blood. In 1969 Black Panther leader Fred Hampton would suffer the same fate. So how safe is Obama? I listened to an interview with Reverend Jesse Jackson on NPR a few days ago--a former presidential hopeful himself--and he said that America had ''turned a corner'' on the matter of race. Perhaps. But a lunatic fringe is a lunatic fringe, and the jangly historic overtures that hang heavy over the coupling of Obama and the younger brother of Jack and Bobby Kennedy must be keeping a few people up at night (in the good ol' US of A).

As far as I know, the Boss hasn't pledged his advocacy for any presidential candidate... so far. That said, until he provided as much for John Kerry in the 2004 presidential campaign, Springsteen had, despite performing many politicised benefit concerts, never endorsed any politician.

In 2004 Bruce worked his home state of New Jersey, which showed to be surprisingly marginal (Kerry took it in the end), and helped add substantially to Kerry's coffers, and it helps that he's still putting out great music, evidenced by his last three studio releases. Classics? No. But they're solid and often moving and tracks like ''Jesus was an Only Son'' from the acoustic album Devils and Dust recalls for me some of the finer moments of Nebraska.

Like Updike, and like you, I think of a whole bunch of things when I think of ''spirituality''. I think of Bobby Kennedy's uncanny strength and drive after the murder of his brother, and of the wise and intuitively calming--not to mention improvised-- speech he gave to hundreds (thousands?) in inner Indianapolis when news of Martin Luther King's assassination came through. Riots broke out in 60 cities when the news broke, and more than 40 people lost their lives, but there were no riots in Indianapolis that night. One wonders.

I also think of the shared feeling of loss and, because of that sharing, the bright and freshened connections with those close to me as we drive outta town listening to Springsteen. The Boss has accompanied me on many a road trip, and it always seems perfect. There's your spirituality--sharing/feeling the harmonious and electric cramping of nerves and melancholy and the need to keep on going in songs like ''Blinded by the Light'' and ''The River''. We're tired and jaded, but baby, we're gonna keep on driving through the night. Hey--it might even be fun.

Records/songs bought:

Feist The Reminder
Pete Rock & CL Smooth The Main Ingredient
Caribou (Manitoba) Up in Flames
Thurston Moore Trees Outside the Academy
Buddy Holly Best Of
Iggy Pop Best Of
Everything But the Girl The Platinum Collection
Don McLean ''Orphans of Wealth''
Warren Zevon ''Excitable Boy''

Posted by Martin McKenzie-Murray at January 30, 2008 9:58 AM