This is Springsteen’s only album of recorded songs of other artist’s songs. It honours 87 year-old Pete Seeger, political activist, protest singer and populariser of America’s folk heritage. It’s like Springsteen is saying ‘Hey they aint my songs. But listen to the story’.
The music swings between Hill Billy to New Orleans jazz. It crashes, bangs and whistles, you know you are in a war then in a huge demonstration of anger against the war in Iraq.
The sound is gutsy and gritty as well as lyrically excellent. This is one angry album and artist, clearly anti war, perhaps the best anti war album ever.
Many tracks have a religious bent, as much American folk does, but that is the disguise for sedition. In ‘Oh, Mary, don’t you weep’, the line ‘Pharaoh’s army got drowned’ is a clear reference to a powerful army getting destroyed in the Middle East. And again ‘One of these nights bout 12 o’clock this world is gonna rock.’
But it is not just an album that reflects billions of peoples anger against the US led war on Iraq and threats of one against Iran, it’s also an album of working class struggle, pain, loss and hope hence the title ‘We Shall Overcome’.
Springsteen is no socialist, although he has always been openly anti war and pro worker, he has given to striking miners not only in the USA but also supported striking Liverpool Dockers in the UK. He has for decades been the hero of the American working class.
Many more artists need to make a stand on these important issues, ‘The Boss’ as he is reluctantly known, needs to be saluted for a brave stance he has taken. Yes he is a multi millionaire, but his roots have always been with workers everywhere and his message is clear.
Springsteen has a message for socialists and workers internationally. In the hymn-derived civil rights anthem ‘Eyes on the prize’ he sings ‘Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on. The very moment we thought we was lost, Dungeon shook and the chains come off.. Only thing that we did wrong was stayin’ in the wilderness so long. Only thing that we did right was the day we begun to fight.’
Get the album and be inspired, you may even start dancing.
By John Gowland