This song is a perfect example of how Springsteen’s sense of hopefulness is always mixed with realism. This is one of the things that appeals to me about his music. He doesn’t forget where he’s been and where others are when they come to meet him. He sees the streets of life lined with the beauty life brings as well as the pain, and he does not deny any of it.
He, instead, gives voice to those experiences, and by doing that, connects all of us on some level. By doing this, he takes the power out of the ache and increases the pleasure of our elations. Like us, he’s moving along the crooked path doing what he knows how to do, hoping that in the end, there is something better, for himself, his family, and for each one of us.
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/FurtherOn.html
Friday, October 30, 2009
This song is a perfect example of how Springsteen’s sense of hopefulness is always mixed with realism. This is one of the things that appeals to me about his music. He doesn’t forget where he’s been and where others are when they come to meet him. He sees the streets of life lined with the beauty life brings as well as the pain, and he does not deny any of it.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Let’s call her Mary. Hell, why not? Mary was born with a fire in her belly. She had her sights set high above the top rung of her personal ladder. She found love, and had a family, but that wasn’t enough for her fast blood. To her own detriment, she chased the stars that twinkled out of the sign she was born under. As life went from bad to worse, she still somehow believed she was destined for something bigger than what she was.
Mary never realized that destiny. Her fire burned out of control, and she lost her chance at seeing any of her dreams realized. But she was right about one thing: “From Small Things Big Things One Day Come”. Though she wasn’t equipped with the ability to “be something in this world” or even to have a healthy, lasting relationship, she produced something more beautiful than the spinning stars she pursued. Her children, born of her fire, but raised in the loyal arms of their father, will become something or someones whom Mary can be assured are the greatest treasures she could have ever hoped to discover.
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/FromSmallThings.html
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Can broken hearts dare to dream again? Dreaming, loving, having faith that some day we’ll find “a world I can call mine” takes courage. When someone’s life is filled with broken dreams, fear, apathy, and a sense of futility can all begin to take hold. Frankie’s lover is someone who is daring to dream again. The love he found in Frankie has given him the courage to try once more for something magical, something meaningful.
The night they spend together he wants to be free of reservation and free of shame for their status in life. He wants to tear the teeth off his fears of not being good enough and not deserving something better than what he has been given. People who have more money, power, position, can sometimes make those who don’t feel foolish for thinking they can “belong” too. But Frankie’s lover does not want to belong. He wants something even more than what they got. His dreams require bigger chances, greater risks.
But the fear that these dreams will not be realized, that they will be somehow taken from him, as elusive as “the stars…on the screen”, still lingers within him. He tells Frankie to “walk softly tonight little stranger / …into these shadows we’re passing through / Talk softly tonight, little angel”. If no one can see or hear his dreams, then no one can take them away. He does not courageously shout his longings from the rooftops, but rather whispers them in the quiet desperation of their night together, a night that has made him believe again, in himself, in another, and in life’s possibilities.
That is the power only found in the gracious hand of love…
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/Frankie.html
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
This song made me think of the movie “Forrest Gump”. Forrest loved Jenny with an innocent childlike, love. She loved Forrest, too, mostly because of how he loved her. As she grew restless, she went out in the world to experience life, to chase the “roar”, and became involved with all kinds of new demons, demons that played and danced soft and slow with the ones she grew up with from her abusive childhood. Her journey from their simple friendship of youth has been traveled down a deep well. Forrest’s “simple” love she could no longer accept. She did not feel clean enough for his pure love.
Though his love was “simple”, it was strong. It never wavered. It was unconditional. He came for Jenny over and over again. She couldn’t chase him away with her fears and self loathing. She couldn’t loosen its grip. He tells her, in essence, that he does not expect her to be who she was, but he knows she is more than she is now. He has seen her heart. He has been down her “black ladder”, and he loves her still. He came for who she is and always has been and for everything that comes with her.
But no matter how strong, or how persistent his love was, he could not save his Jenny. She saw the value in his love and though she couldn’t claim it for herself, she gifted it to their son. She had lost hold of his kind of love too long ago…
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/ForYou.html
Monday, October 26, 2009
Just because you’re feelin’ it, doesn’t mean she is. It’s sort of like the most complained about sexual issue, where the man gets caught up in his pleasure and forgets his partner is not experiencing the same thing, possibly not even close to the same thing as he is. Just because you’re burning hot inside for someone does not make them obligated or even more likely to return the flames. Take a hint – get a clue – if she says no – if she says she’s not into you, then she’s not. It’s not her love she’s denying – it’s yours.
Deep Thoughts by Lenore B.:
I think the "fire" he feels must be an STD....maybe that's why she doesn't want to fool around”.
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/Fire.html
Friday, October 23, 2009
In my absence, today’s song “Fade Away” will be discussed by a very talented guest writer and poet, Lenore B. Unaware of much of Springsteen’s music throughout her life, Lenore has recently come to appreciate and realize the heights and depths of his catalog. Her newfound appreciation and love of lyrics will be a valued contribution to discussing this song, and others in the days to come. Thank you Lenore for your role in helping keep this blog and Springsteen fans focused on the ideas and themes of Springsteen’s Music.
Again, as I will be away, I will not be posting this weekend. Please return on Monday for the next song, “Fire”.
Written by Lenore B. – “Fade Away”:
If the bitch wants to go, then let her go. She's obviously hooking up with someone else anyway.
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/FadeAway.html
Thursday, October 22, 2009
The first thing that comes to mind is the old bumper sticker, t-shirt slogan, whatever it was: “Life sucks and then you die”. Any human, who lives their life “working for the pain”, working just to survive, which is most of us, knows the anguish of the same routine day after day. Nothing about it feeds your soul. Instead, it steals from you. It steals your fire, your passion, your energy, your compassion.
“Working Life” is almost an oxymoron. A life spent working for someone else, the best years of your life, is no life at all. Oh sure there’s the evenings and weekends when we’re allowed some quality time with family and friends. When we’re just too darn tired and disillusioned to love them the way we want to. When we’re just too stressed and too drained to use the time to develop our talents and our passions.
I’m all for reform. We live our life backwards – all work and little relaxation. You can’t even have a baby, unless you are wealthy, and enjoy the first few months of their life. Everything we do revolves around work. It even determines where we live. Instead of building a life and then working to support it. We work and develop a life that accommodates it. Something just isn’t right.
Check out this article on a slight alternative (though still not good enough): http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/ut_four_day_workweek
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/Factory.html
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
As a track off of The Rising CD, the easiest image to call to mind, especially for us Americans, is that of the literal empty New York skyline after a tragic day in the history of the U.S., 9/11. Springsteen’s ability to see past boundaries and through to the connection between all of us humans is never more evident than in this song. The emotions of loss manifested through sadness and rage immediately take us inward to our own feelings about what happened that day.
Just when the sense of loss has reached its peak through the connection of blood, one of our own is gone, a piece of us has died, Springsteen flies us across the world to the “plains of Jordan”, where the same grief lives inside someone’s mother, wife, brother, or friend, where the word “terrorist” does not define the loved one they lost.
That same sense of emptiness defies any definition of good and evil. It connects the hearts of strangers from a “strange” land whose seemingly incomprehensible way of seeing the world and whose sense of duty does not really differ from our own. Their pain and their sacrifice is no less than ours. The same sense of ambivalence about honor and duty, the same sadness and anger over a life lost, the same questions about life and death, carve out an “empty sky” for all of our human family across the world.
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/EmptySky.html
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Amidst a painting of a dry, somber, Midwestern landscape, Springsteen delivers the heart of a man in the midst of his grief. He took a chance at love, and now she is gone. His loneliness’ only company is “dry lightning on the horizon”, like a distant promise filled with mystery and danger.
Nearing apathy, he goes about his life driven by her memory. He allowed himself to give away all he had to another, and she left him with nothing but reminders of what he had and what he lost. The dry lightning lights up the sky like some kinds of divine promise, but there is a drought on the land, and now, because he has loved and lost, there will remain forever a drought in his heart.
This is the scary part of love, allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough so that you can love and receive the love of someone else, but also so that when that love is lost, a solemn ache remains. But she is ultimately not what he needs. She had told him “ain't nobody gonna give nobodywhat they really need anyway”. She gave him only some of what he needed and now he needs to look to the horizon, to something greater than earth and sky, greater than a human touch, to make his life complete.
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/DryLightning.html
Monday, October 19, 2009
Drive All Night is a pleading from one lover to another asking them to break away from the chains holding them down and to join them in the chase of life’s burning flame. One lover is drowning in the poison of their fate, giving up on life and love. She’s found her place amongst “fallen angels” and those “crying defeat”, perhaps because of addiction or depression. She has surrendered herself to their world and will ride destiny’s waves as they come.
Her lover, though, is determined to break away from his life sentence. He sees something worth fighting for, and he has the strength to carry her along for a while. He will “buy her some shoes”, or give her a bit of what he’s got so that she can break free too. He wants his love to be strong enough for the both of them, strong enough to combat any forces they come up against.
Sadly, though, while love is strong, it is sometimes not enough. He cannot save her. She needs to save herself. She needs to kindle the slow burning flame inside her own heart before she can ignite her passions with the love of another. His love, though, will not let him leave her behind. He will drive down that road as long as it takes for her to return with him. He refuses to go it alone. He feels there is nothing left for him to lose, and he will risk falling back into the darkness for a chance at love.
For Complete Lyrics Visit:
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Trains, as a common motif in Springsteen’s lyrics, carry all kinds of passengers aboard, often headed for something greater than the lives we presently live. The train is supposed to take us somewhere, somewhere beyond the dark horizon line. While aboard, our sins and blemishes get washed away by the touch of grace, and we will arrive newly born.
Sometimes, though, that feels like a dream. To believe that some day we will not carry the weights that presently hold us down, feels like another lie in a world handing out lies like popsicles in summertime. Sometimes our depths of shame and life’s circumstances can get so dark and the light inside of us nearly extinguished, that it feels like this train is going nowhere but down, and fast. The pain becomes ingrained so deep inside of us that we cannot even escape it in our dreams.
And even for those not so inclined, in one last moment of desperation, when any final drops of hope we have left are at last shattered, we “drop to [our] knees and cr[y]”. We look beyond the world in front of us hoping there’s a driver to the train will take us somewhere beyond our sinking sea. We plea for just one act of mercy, one moment of release. And if there is no grace to be found from outside ourselves, some of us will jump off the train and others will stay on the track and sink far down below where colors fade to black.
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/DownboundTrain.html
Thursday, October 15, 2009
When you’re born with the “deck stacked” against you, escape, transcendence, whatever you want to call it, is next to impossible. It takes a lot more than just desire and determination to escape an all consuming world. Chance, luck, someone to help you along the way – any one of these things can help take someone out of one reality and place them in another.
Unlike Lot’s wife, the temptation is to not look back. The temptation is to ride the freedom train as far away as possible and prove to the rest of the world that you can make it too. You are going to “even the score”. But looking back may not be such a bad idea.
Of course, you do not look back in longing for the difficult life you have lived. But you can look back, back at those left behind, back at where you came from and remember the pain and the agony of just trying to survive, whatever your circumstances may have been. Looking back in this way will allow you to maintain a flow of empathy and suspend judgment for your fellow human beings who cannot escape as you have done.
It will allow you to return to a place where humanity is at its most fragile and desperate, and now that it no longer has its grip on you, allow you to fight for others with understanding and compassion. You can take what you’ve been given and loosen the chains for someone else.
There’s an expression: If you want to move forward, you’ve got to go back. This is usually used to express the need for looking into our personal histories to find what is blocking us from growing in our present life. It can also mean that if you want to live a meaningful existence, if you want to “make a difference”, if you want to transcend your own needs and desires, you need to look back. You need to look back at those left behind and lend them your strength and courage. Lend them your voice. And some, if only a few, can ride along aside you down those “tracks through the blazing rain”.
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/DontLookBack.html
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
There is a scene in the movie “American Beauty” where the main character and his wife are about to get intimate on their sofa. They’ve been drifting apart for some time and no longer have any place at which they connect with each other. As they get closer to breaking a long built barrier, his wife tells him not to spill the glass he is holding on the sofa. “Jesus Christ”, he yells, “it’s just a couch”. She proceeds to tell him how expensive it is and any chance of intimacy rekindled is lost.
Society tells us that marriage equals a storybook wedding, a house, two cars or a minivan when the kids come along and there should be kids, dogs, cats, drapes, shower curtains and for a lucky some an inground pool.
Pursuing those things is a welcoming distraction. The work it takes to build the physical part of our life is easier than the work it takes building our emotional and spiritual worlds. It is easier and safer to stay in one place. Fear of growth or of change shows itself in the empty pursuits of everything but personal growth and leaves one feeling a constant void. Instead of chasing that void and discovering what and why it is, we chase instead things that can be easily fixed. If everything is in its place and everything as it should be on the outside, then I’ll feel right on the inside. But we never do.
The longer life is lived in avoidance of facing our own demons and fears and building ourselves a meaningful understanding of ourselves and the world, the more we risk losing, and the more we become a product of our own making. We veer further from anything real toward a plastic life. We become what we think we’re “supposed” to be rather than who we really are. We risk losing the love of those around us, because a doll cannot love themselves and, therefore, cannot love anyone else.
Following are Lyrics to Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees”
Her green plastic watering can / For her fake Chinese rubber plant / In the fake plastic earth. / That she bought from a rubber man / In a town full of rubber plans / To get rid of itself. / It wears her out, it wears her out / It wears her out, it wears her out./
She lives with a broken man / A cracked polystyrene man / Who just crumbles and burns. / He used to do surgery / For girls in the eighties / But gravity always wins. / And it wears him out, it wears him out. / It wears him out, it wears . . ./
She looks like the real thing / She tastes like the real thing / My fake plastic love. / But I can't help the feeling / I could blow through the ceiling / If I just turn and run. / And it wears me out, it wears me out. / It wears me out, it wears me out. /
And if I could be who you wanted / If I could be who you wanted / All the time, all the time. / Oh, oh.
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/Dollhouse.html
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Like an early, undeveloped version of Land of Hope and Dreams, “Does this Bust Stop at 82nd Street? carries the lost souls of the world. They’re all headed somewhere and all are welcome aboard. Their journey is wild and filled with promises, ambition, dreams, love, betrayal, and uncertainty. Why do they continue on? What keeps them riding along? Hope. They will arrive some day to the place they’ve been running towards their whole lives, the place they can only dare to dream of – where the last shall be first. Their day will come.
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/DoesThisBusStopAt82ndStreet.html
Monday, October 12, 2009
It’s Monday night. I had the day off, and the last thing I want to do is be forced to write about another song. I love these songs, so why is it so much work? Why is it becoming painful to do, especially on the weekends? I’m thinking I shouldn’t have devoted myself to one song per day. But I did, and Devils and Dust is one of those brilliant Springsteen songs that deserves so much to be said about it. I will not do it justice. I won’t pretend that I will:
Once again, Springsteen embodies the tortured soul of another. He places himself in the mind of one who experiences a life separate from his own. He captures the beating heart of a soldier risking everything for a purpose greater than himself but conflicted by what that experience has done to him deep inside. The things that made him who he is up until now will fade away and a new fear will take hold, fear that what he has done, what he has sacrificed has been for naught.
Your heart and soul turned to “devils and dust”, opened to evil and emptiness. Like a tumbleweed blowing down a desert road, so are the souls of those who face unfathomable decisions of life and death. Young men and women at war forced to decide someone else’s fate, and then left to be at war with themselves for the rest of their days.
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/DevilsDust.html
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Even when you win, you lose. Like paying twenty dollars in quarters to win at an arcade game where your prize is worth maybe fifty cents, war is a game that cannot be won. Whether that war is fought on foreign soil between soldiers or on the streets between young men caught in the game of drugs and survival, what is at risk is greater than anything that can be won. They are all pawns in a much larger game where there are no rules and no fair play.
Somebody will benefit, but not those who risk everything, not those who will experience the greatest loss. The chips are stacked against them. If they manage to save their bodies, a large part of who they are will not be saved. When all is said and done, for them only faith, or “something like faith” remains.
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/DevilsArcade.html
Saturday, October 10, 2009
This is one of those songs that overwhelms me to write about. Springsteen’s gift for tapping into the dark recesses of another’s soul is rarely more evident than it is in this story.
“Between our dreams and actions lies this world” sums up beautifully the all too common tragic story of a life lost. A baby is born and dreams are built. His mother holds him and looks into his eyes seeing all the possibilities of his future. But no one is free to grow independent of the world’s cruel mysteries. The battle against internal and external demons sometimes leads to surrender. Shame, guilt, and fear take our inborn sense of our own divinity quickly shatters our belief in even our humanity.
These souls are dead long before they are in the ground. There is no love, no grace for the dead. Anything they do to harm themselves does not matter. They do not feel worth saving. They are their sins. They are their pain. They live life waiting for the day they can finally be free from the ghosts in their veins that have haunted them all their lives. They can only find some small sliver of hope that the grace they did not receive in life will embrace them in death.
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/DeadManWalkin.html
Friday, October 9, 2009
Springsteen playfully tells about a coming of age story. Two young friends, in the foolish overconfidence and naivety of youth take a stab at responsibility and “romance”. They don’t make much of a splash in the crowded city, so they think their luck will change in Darlington County. New places and new faces hold so much promise in their young eyes.
They check out the girls on the corner, hoping to make some kind of impression. Wayne skips out on work and disappears for a few days, no doubt drunk off of his newfound freedom. The game of life was bigger than he expected. It bites him in the ass and he winds up arrested.
The narrator, though, keeps working hard. He goes to work each day but keeps searching for some “little girl” to make a connection with. But he begins to grow up and realize there’s even more to be had than days of work and nights of romance. He wants a deeper relationship with the girl he’s with and wants to experience something beyond the horizon.
Darlington County was not where life was leading these boys. It was not the end of the line. It was just a step in their process of maturing and coming into their own. It was that thin line where choices can be made and lives can be lost or saved.
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/DarlingtonCounty.html
Thursday, October 8, 2009
The darkness lives inside all of us. Only some, though, live their lives inside of the dark walls that surround them from within. Sometimes the pain of living is just too unbearable for fragile hearts. The secrets of their life tucked down deep inside of them do not ever sleep. They thrash around in the daylight and haunt them in the night.
Some would have these struggling souls believe that they have erred in allowing their demons to control their life. They would tell them that it is what they think about and dwell on that makes their life difficult – they just need to live in the sunshine – think positive – think yourself into denial and life can be good. Reach for some external source of fulfillment and you can be happy.
When your relationship with the darkness is as old as you are, you know the pain living there can bring. Once you’ve lived there, it’s nearly impossible to live anywhere, anyway else. You can’t. You don’t want to. There are certain realizations about life that can only be found by wrestling with the darkness. The struggle itself is what feeds and fulfills you. The anguish, the tears, the confusion all must be faced. The lonely road must be taken. You must feed it and beat it until it loosens a little of its grip, a little of its hold on you. Then you must go after it again and again.
The darkness will tear you up and spit you out. But it will spit you out, out on the line where “dreams are found and lost”, where you will either let it take away from all you have left or where you will find new meaning and understanding in your life’s journey. Take from it – use it. The changes it brings could not have been found on any other pathway. You will look back and know you went where you had to go to get where you are.
Then some day the darkness will call again…and to it you will knowingly return.
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/DarknessOnTheEdgeOfTown.html
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
“Dancing in the Dark” – there’s no better way to describe living. We keep going despite problems. We keep living and moving forward not knowing for certain what our life means. We “keep on keepin’ on” as they say. The longer we live, the more puzzle pieces are put into place. But even then, it’s a million piece puzzle and we’ve maybe found only the corner pieces.
Something in us tells us there’s something bigger to be experienced. We don’t know what that is, but we can feel it out there. We reach for it through connections, with people, experiences, and magical moments, giving us just enough of a spark to fuel us for a little while. When that spark burns out, we reach again. We hunger, we starve, for something more, because nothing satiates that empty ache inside. We keep on dancing not knowing exactly where we are or who or what is dancing with us.
What do you keep on dancing for?
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/DancingInTheDark.html
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Big fish in a little pond. That’s the type of girl embodied in Cynthia. She’s not the best looking girl around, but she’s all there is, so she’s going to get the attention. No one takes her seriously, but in a world where there’s not much to live for, she give the boys something to look forward to. She pretends not to notice, but she enjoys the attention just as much as they enjoy giving it. In their small world, the chance for some small, if meaningless, connection, is what they’re all looking for.
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/CrushOnYou.html and http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/Cynthia.html
Monday, October 5, 2009
“I cross my heart and hope to die” we said as children, as our way of solidifying the certainty of whatever we promised or whatever we wanted accepted as truth. We crossed our hearts and we were believed. As the night descends, however, what was so simple in the light of youth, becomes shrouded in shadow and maybes.
Life is seemingly lived easier when lines are clearly drawn. People are good or bad. Actions are right or wrong. A promise is as good as done. There’s no room for error. The dividing line is thickly painted, and you just have to choose a side. But then a time comes, when that yin and yang, black and white cookie cutter life you’ve been living stops making sense. You find yourself staring down the well of mystery of “them spaces in between” and everything you’ve believed begins to shake loose piece by piece, crumbles of conviction and confidence crashing at your weary feet.
Now what are you supposed to do? Nothing is what it seems. Everything is something else. What truth do you grab onto? Promises have been broken, ones we have made and ones made to us, over and over again. As much as we want to be certain, not just of others and the world around us, but of ourselves, our intentions, our promises, the most we can do is to do our best. The best we can do is to not allow ourselves to be rear ended by the gray train with doubt and uncertainty at the clutch. Instead, we need to be aboard the gray train, and from there only can we see everything, good and bad, as a possibility. Dreams can still live on this ride, they just twist and turn along the tracks instead of crashing and burning out of existence.
Knowing that nothing is black and white, and nothing is as simple as it seems, leaves just one road with many paths to take, life’s hard road to each of our own personal satisfaction…whatever that may look like – I can guarantee it’s not what we plan, not what we measure, nor expect.
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/CrossMyHeart.html
Sunday, October 4, 2009
For those of us who have someone to spend our weekends and evenings with, someone to escape life’s hard times with, we are the lucky ones. For those who have to face this world and then a life at home alone, life is a long lonely road. A life spent with someone who can be that shelter, that comfort to you makes the difficult parts of life worth going through and easier to face. That is what we should be to each other – a hiding place – a healing room – a sanctuary set apart from the storm of pain raging outside our windows.
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/CoverMe.html
Saturday, October 3, 2009
When you are young, the spirit of a carnival or fair holds so much promise. The air is filled with lights and music. The nights are long and simple fun and games are saturated with magical possibilities. Young love fills your heart. Laughter comes easy. The taste of cotton candy and caramel apples satisfies without threat. Summer will never end and daylight never will call you awake again to face dusty streets and littered fields of someone else’s plan for you.
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/CountyFair.html
Friday, October 2, 2009
Isn’t pretty much everything we do and everything we want and have and believe like “countin’ on a miracle”? Life is so fragile and so many things can change our life in an instant. People come in and out of our lives, chance encounters that alter the course of our life. Our dreams and desires are subject to the laws of the universe, whatever you may believe those are. Even if you believe in fate, it’s still a miracle to find what you want because what are the chances that fate and desire will fall in line?
When someone we love dies, we’re at the mercy of an even greater, uncertain miracle. Where are they? Will we see them again? Will we have our love again? Even if we believe in something with near certainty – heaven, hell, paradise, death is the end all – we can still be left with a sense of helplessness, knowing there is little we can do to determine our ultimate fate. Doubts chase you from youth until death. What if at the end of our lives our life and our love comes to nothing but dust and ashes? What is guaranteed? What is for certain? Nothing…here’s to hope and faith…
Thursday, October 1, 2009
During this last Presidential Campaign, amidst the rigmarole, usual rhetoric, and excitement over the possibilities of a Black or Female president, once again, a voice was silenced. Once again, the voice of millions was not heard, not through one politician’s lips, not even the most liberal among them. While everyone talked about Middle America and Wealthy America, no one talked about Poor America, Poverty America, I can’t feed my children America, Last Night another Child was Shot Outside our House America. No one mentioned what needed to be done to help the poor. The left appealed to the middle class while the right protected the rich. It was a war between two groups while a third sat by the ring helplessly.
Middle class America – we give lip service to ideals about equality, yet we don’t want to give up what we have. We throw anger at the rich for taking more than they need, while we greedily protect our standard of living. We take for granted that we’re supposed to own a home, two cars, and send our kids off to college and have money for retirement – isn’t that what Obama listed as the values he wanted to protect for Voting America? There are families who are so far removed from these ideals, they are not even the beginnings of a dream or an inkling in their hearts.
We complain, bitch, and moan, but in the end, we must like it this way. We like the safety of our nest in the middle. Otherwise we would have spoken out, we would have demanded change. We know what the problems of America and the world are, we just think that we can live in denial of them while we “get ours”. What can one person do? We now have a democratic majority and a seemingly somewhat liberal Black President in the White House, and nothing has or will change anytime soon. And we just keep pressing on without pause…
For Complete Lyrics Visit: http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/CodeOfSilence.html
Chimes of Freedom was not written by Springsteen, therefore it will not take a number in my 267 song line-up. However, Springsteen’s version of this Dylan song is so incredibly powerful and perfect, that the song deserves mention in the midst of Springsteen’s writings.
I took an American Literature class where we had to write about an American poet. I chose Bob Dylan. Not Springsteen? I totally would have chosen Springsteen, but he was not listed in our Literature book, so Dylan it was. We also had to explicate two of their poems/songs. I am including an excerpt of my paper here where I analyzed the words to Chimes of Freedom.
“Chimes of Freedom” is one of Dylan’s socio-political songs set on a spiritual landscape. His imagery takes the plight of the oppressed in the earthly realm and frees them in the spiritual. Often labelled as an anti-war song, the message is that freedom cannot be won through any of society’s institutions, but only through spiritual deliverance. Each and every person is born free, but has been pressed down and chained by human greed and injustice. Through vivid imagery and an appeal to visual and audio sensory, Dylan conveys this message:
Far between sundown's finish an' midnight's broken toll / We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing / As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds / Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing / Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight / Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight / An' for each an' ev'ry underdog soldier in the night / An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.
“Far between sundown’s finish and midnight’s broken toll” sets the stage in the evening, when the lights cast upon the world are extinguished and the darkest part of night has descended. The darkest part of human existence is upon us. Dylan introduces the metaphor he uses throughout the entire song. The elements of a thunderstorm, thunder, bolts, lightening, flashing, crashing, are used to convey what will bring about true freedom. The power of a thunderstorm is great and cannot be contended with. The heavenly references make the “chimes of freedom” something unearthly, greater than any democracy or system of government humans have set up, something humans have not accomplished. Whether these chimes are God, Nature, some other great natural force operating in the universe, or the banding together of humanity to fight injustice, they are the key to unlocking the shackles on those beaten down by life’s oppressive forces. Soon, the bells of freedom will toll throughout the world.
Those fighting for true freedom are not the politicians and world leaders waging war, but rather the silent protesters, the “warriors whose strength is not to fight”. When this song was written, in 1964, civil rights and anti-war sentiment was strong in the air. The idea of passive resistance, and using peaceful means to achieve peace was new. But Dylan was singing about more than integrating schools and bringing troops home. He knew true freedom was greater than those things.
In the city's melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched / With faces hidden while the walls were tightening / As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin' rain / Dissolved into the bells of the lightning / Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake / Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an' forsaked / Tolling for the outcast, burnin' constantly at stake / An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.
The city life is so far removed from what is natural that it squeezes us from every angle, melting away our dreams and ideals. Thus is the life of the poor, luckless, forsaken people in the world. The wedding bells represent a new beginning. A new beginning is coming from “the lightening” or from a cause larger than any that has ever been fought for – true freedom. The tolling signals a great event taking place. More people are included – rebel, rake, luckless, etc…. Freedom is coming for all of these people.
Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail / The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder / That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze / Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder / Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind / Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind / An' the unpawned painter behind beyond his rightful time / An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.
The “mad mystic hammering” is a spiritual purpose being worked out.
The imagery just gets better and more intense in this verse. “The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder” is a beautiful metaphor to describe the awe-inspiring forms nature takes. The storm reveals the power and wonder of its creator.
Here Dylan takes a gentle stab at religion. The “clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze”. The churches, religions, or institutions of the world do not offer true freedom. Instead, they restrict it. They will be done away with and replaced by something higher.
Through the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales / For the disrobed faceless forms of no position / Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts / All down in taken-for-granted situations / Tolling for the deaf an' blind, tolling for the mute / Tolling for the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute / For the misdemeanor outlaw, chased an' cheated by pursuit / An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.
There’s more religious imagery seen in a negative context. The “disrobed faceless forms of no position” are all those in the political, religious, or secular world who have used their position for greed and exploitation. They will be disrobed. Their power will be taken from them. The chimes continue to toll for those who cannot speak for themselves, those who turn away from the problems of the world, and those who feel isolated from family or community.
Even though a cloud's white curtain in a far-off corner flashed / An' the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting / Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones / Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting / Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail / For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale / An' for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail / An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.
When the storm seems to be over, in a “far-off corner”, and the mist has been lifted, the chimes will continue to strike to make sure no one is left behind. Usually when something ends or leaves, something or someone is left behind. Not this time. The “Electric light” will strike “like arrows”, killing any remaining piece of injustice and setting free even those who seem to be condemned, the drifters, the “lonesome-hearted lovers”, those in the earthly prisons.
Starry-eyed an' laughing as I recall when we were caught / Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended / As we listened one last time an' we watched with one last look / Spellbound an' swallowed 'til the tolling ended / Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed / For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an' worse / An' for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe / An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.
“Starry-eyed an’ laughing” gives the image of someone feeling a deep level of happiness, like lovers in a new relationship. True happiness can only come with true freedom. “Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended” represents the path of restriction and oppression lived by those who Dylan lists in this song. It will be taken away from them, and they will soon seen their freedom delivered by the hands of something or someone greater than can be seen. When people are overtaken by something majestic, they are “spellbound” and have no conscious feeling of the passing of time”. The last few lines encompass anyone else left out. The chimes will toll for everyone, not just a select few.