Land of Hope and Dreams – Bruce Springsteen anthem for us all

There has been some push back on Bruce Springsteen by more conservative voters in North Carolina for canceling a concert in Greensboro in protest of the oppressive law that was passed that restricted the rights of LGBT folks, in general, as well as the rights of transgender people specifically. But, this is not new for Springsteen to lend his voice to fight for the disenfranchised folks in the world. In fact, if people listen to his songs, many are about those who have little voice in a society that sometime steps on them.

One of my many favorite Springsteen songs is called “Land of Hope and Dreams” which speaks of the train taking us all to a better place. To me the song lives in the chorus which is repeated often as the song winds down. This is one song where the live version sounds better than the studio-recorded one, in part as the studio version was recorded after Clarence Clemons had passed with his saxophone being overdubbed.

Here are most of the lyrics, with the chorus highlighted at the end.
Grab your ticket and your suitcase, thunder’s rolling down this track
Well, you don’t know where you’re going now, but you know you won’t be back
Well, darling, if you’re weary, lay your head upon my chest
We’ll take what we can carry, yeah, and we’ll leave the rest

Well, big wheels roll through the fields where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of hope and dreams

I will provide for you and I’ll stand by your side
You’ll need a good companion now for this part of the ride
Yeah, leave behind your sorrows, let this day be the last
Well, tomorrow there’ll be sunshine and all this darkness past

Well, big wheels roll through fields where sunlight streams
Oh, meet me in a land of hope and dreams

Well, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls

I said, this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, hear the steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing

Yes, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls

I said, this train carries broken-hearted
This train, thieves and sweet souls departed
This train carries fools and kings thrown
This train, all aboard

I said, now this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, the steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing

Folks, The Boss’ words are compelling. We are all imperfect. We are all sinners. But, there is a place on the train for everyone. I for one applaud Springsteen’s stance. It is not a stretch for him to make it.

 

Why so many gunshots?

In the United States, we live in a world where too many folks are shot. With guns so rampant in our country, it makes a difficult job for our police officers even more challenging. This may explain in part a bias to act when fear sets in. There are many fine police officers who do their jobs well day in and day out. Unfortunately, we do have an increasing number of situations that have arisen, where police officers may have acted rashly or too quickly. We need to evaluate these both within the profession and through the court system when necessary.

Yet, one of my concerns that does not get talked about enough is why are so many shots being fired? I am clearly concerned about the racial profiling that appears to be going on, as people of color are the ones being killed by police officers more so than other races. But, the number of shots is appalling to me as it seems double-digit shots are fired to subdue an alleged attacker in too many incidents.  What happened to shooting to wound an attacker? Why is it necessary to shoot a teen or twelve-year old boy eleven, fourteen, or sixteen times?

Bruce Springsteen wrote and powerfully sang a song a few years ago called “American Skin.” It is sometimes referred to by its subtitle of “41 Shots” which is the number of shots fired to kill a non-English speaking suspect who did not understand what he was being asked. He thought the police were out to get him and ran. When he pulled out his wallet, he was shot 41 times.

The fact that more Black youth are being shot is troublesome, but the number of shots the police officer feels obligated to use to defend himself or herself is also troubling. We need to be asking ourselves why? Why so many shots? Why are the shots fired so quickly? Were there no other actions that could have been taken?

In Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling book “Blink” he mentioned the circumstances behind the Springsteen song. The essence of the book is we use gut instinct which is really our in-tune subconscious that sees situations before our conscious mind can register what is going on. In one example, he notes how a fireman told his colleagues to back quickly out of room as his experience was giving him an uneasy feeling. The fire was not burning as per the norm. What his subconscious experience told him was correct – the fire was actually beneath the room they entered and if they went in, they would be consumed by the fire when the floor collapsed.

Gladwell notes the same is true for police officers. We must train and retrain how to recognize danger and when danger is not present. Those few instances in the “blinking of an eye” matter. This is why the job is so hard. A judgment call has to be made and, unfortunately, those calls are not always right. With adrenalin flowing, the reaction can be to shoot often. I hope that is all it is. I would hate to believe there is an unstated rule somewhere that if an officer shoots someone, they need to be lethal. Yet, we must ask these questions, as the number of shots used to subdue someone are too common and too many.

The best suggestions beyond the training and retraining are two-fold. The police union needs to be as involved and engaged as a pilot union is around an air crash. We need all parties looking to see why something happened, not with the primary motivation to say the police officer was not without fault. Good people make mistakes. Good police officers make them, too. Let’s understand why and use that information to avoid it going forward. And, it needs to be said, not all police officers are equal in experience, talent and temperament, just like everyone else.

The other good suggestion is more community policing. Encounters with law enforcement officers should not only happen in negative situations, where you messed up or someone thinks you messed up. The more interactions that are positive will help reduce crime. More police officer visibility will help reduce crime.

Let me end that we need to get to better answers. A better answer does not include police officers getting shot. That serves no purpose other than making a bad situation worse. And, a life is lost. Saying All Lives Matter is 100% correct, but this theme usurps the reason for the Black Lives Matter protests. We need to help police officers serve the community better in a tough job. That involves training, evaluation and improvement and community policing. It also involves understanding that difficulty.

I recognize fully that as a White man I am treated differently and can go anywhere I want, treatment that a Black man is not afforded even when dressed in a suit. When a Black man is stopped by the law, he knows he must move deliberately or this may be the last thing he does on earth. Black youth are given “the talk” by their mothers to do this very thing – be respectful and move slowly. This is sage advice for all of us, but please know how hard a job the police officer has, even when less biased to act. All it takes is an instance and someone is dead. So, we must respect the law, while we still seek answers. But, we do need answers.

 

Thunder Road

One of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs is “Thunder Road.” It is a vintage Boss song as it tells a story in such a vivid manner to wonderful music. When I think of how a piano can accentuate a rock and roll song, this is the song I think of most often, especially with the closing of the song. But, with Bruce, the words always resonate and are lifted up by the tune.

Here are the first and last verses of the song, which illustrate his clever wordsmithing and storytelling:

The screen door slams
Mary’s dress waves
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
Don’t run back inside
Darling you know just what I’m here for
So you’re scared and you’re thinking
That maybe we ain’t that young anymore
Show a little faith there’s magic in the night
You ain’t a beauty but hey you’re alright
Oh and that’s alright with me

Well I got this guitar
And I learned how to make it talk
And my car’s out back
If you’re ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door’s open but the ride it ain’t free
And I know you’re lonely
For words that I ain’t spoken
But tonight we’ll be free
All the promises’ll be broken
There were ghosts in the eyes
Of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road
In the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets
They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
And in the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines roaring on
But when you get to the porch they’re gone
On the wind so Mary climb in
It’s town full of losers
And I’m pulling out of here to win

To me, these words help me see Mary, with her heart beating, crossing the porch with the wind blowing her dress as she dances as she walks. I can easily hear the screen door slam with Roy Orbison singing in the background. As an aside, there is a great tribute concert with Orbison just before he passed away, with Springsteen and many others playing along that showed how much influence Orbison had on their careers.

But, back to Mary and her unnamed suitor. Note the repeated references to only, lonely and alone. Those are the thirsts they are trying to quench. She is like many people, not beautiful, but alright looking. My guess is he is in the same boat. I love the reference to the “long walk” from her porch to his front seat, which is not that long, physically, but very long mentally. It is a walk of faith in their future.

When I first heard the song, I interpreted it was a ride to take the next step in their relationship. They were headed down to the “beach road.” She had turned away other boys, but loved this one and yearned for him to say the words “ain’t spoken” she knew he felt. Yet, the last line makes me believe they are leaving town as he is “pulling out of here to win.” Are they running away? Or, is consummating a relationship and expressing his love winning? I go back and forth on this.

I would be interested in your thoughts and interpretations. Does this rank up there with your favorite Springsteen songs? What are some of your others and why?

Land of Hope and Dreams – Springsteen Classic

Like with other artists, I have yet to write one post to summarize Bruce Springsteen songs. His passion and lyrics about subject matters that touch us all makes it hard to limit them to a few. So, I have written occasional reference posts to “American Skin (41 Shots)” and “The River” geared to discuss a subject matter. Given the season and the poverty problem we have in America and around the world, I felt the need to highlight another personal favorite of his called “Land of Hope and Dreams.” This song begs to be heard as his live versions exude the passion he has for the less fortunate and the disenfranchised, so please click on the link below.

Listen to the whole song, but the chorus makes the point loud and clear:

“This train carries saints and sinners, this train carries losers and winners, this train carries whores and gamblers, this train carries lost souls.”

We are an imperfect lot. We are all fixer uppers. We are prone to mistakes and make them. We make decisions to survive and feed our loved ones, that we may not make in times of plenty. We should not think we are better than someone based on where and to whom we were born. We should not think our imperfections go away when we become pious. We should try to do the right thing and treat others with respect and dignity, as we would want from them. We should do our best to walk in their shoes.

There is a movie out I want to see called “The Book Thief” about a young girl in Nazi Germany. A summary of the movie caught my attention. It noted there were many Germans who did not like what was going on with the Nazis, but did nothing to stop it. They were good people like many in the world, yet they saw and let liberty die at the hand of the Nazis. They may not have known about Dachau and Auschwitz, yet they saw their Jewish and educated friends of all religions taken away. I mention this example, as we have a tendency to make self-preservation decisions that we may not be proud of nor would not dream of making in other circumstances. So, we are all saints and sinners to varying degrees. If you don’t believe me, the Christian bible says there has been only one perfect man on earth and we know what we did to him.

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Hope+and+Dreams+Lyrics&Form=VQFRVP#view=detail&mid=DE0A8901FC9661A52EB3DE0A8901FC9661A52EB3

If you know the song, please enjoy it with me. If you don’t, you are in for a ride with The Boss. Give people a break and try to understand what they may have been through.

Let’s go to a concert

Whether it is a local band or one who has sold millions of songs, attending a venue to hear live music is thrilling and makes you feel alive. My wife and I have stumbled into live music on vacation which was a treat and we have made special plans to attend artists of renown. We have even gone to see our friend play piano in one of his bands  on very short notice. This post is dedicated to him as he suffered a stoke yesterday and may not make it. We are thinking good thoughts for him and his family.

Let’s honor him together and take a trip down memory lane. Please feel free to offer some of your thoughts and experiences.Together, my wife and I have seen some fairly big name performers and with very few exceptions were worth trip. I have even taken my boys to see some artists that my wife has not cared for, but were excellent to us – I could not drag her to see ACDC, Styx or Rush, for example, but we enjoyed the heck out of them. Yet, I was able to get her to see the Allman Brothers, which was well worth the effort.

Some of the well-known artists we have been fortunate enough to see include: Bruce Springsteen, who will leave you worn out, but you could hear just one more; Paul McCartney, from which I had to text my Beatles fanatical brother to guess where we were, Elton John, where we saw three generations of fans singing word for word with Elton; Eric Clapton, who brought along Buddy Guy and Derek Trucks for kicks; Tina Turner, the best performer around; Heart, led by Ann Wilson, one of the greatest Rock and Roll singers around; Tom Petty, who is so very underrated even with his tremendous body of work; Steve Winwood, what a thrill; Rod Stewart, who my wife had to see, but I enjoyed as well; Bob Seger, one of my all time favorites where we got tickets in the nose bleed section; KD Lang (once with Tony Bennett),  who can sing almost anything and does the best version of “Hallelujah” you will ever hear; Bonnie Raitt, God she is great; Peter, Paul and Mary, a wonderful treat, Chicago, where it rained half the concert, and George Benson, a great guitarist and performer.

In some smaller venues, we saw Mary Chapin Carpenter, who is genuine, talented and funny; Elvis Costello, who my wife did not want to see, but enjoyed immensely; James Taylor, several times and always a treat; Jimmy Buffett, who is especially entertaining when seen with your drunk brother-in-law; Jackson Browne, who actually disappointed (avoid the first concert tour date), but whose music I love nonetheless and Flogging Molly, which was a wonderfully unique experience. We also saw: Arlo Guthrie (twice), Marcia Ball (go see her if you can), Marshall Tucker (a band with a tragic history), Altan, a neat Irish band, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Foreplay, Harry Connick, Jr. and I am sure I am leaving off several others. My wife has gone to several with my daughter that were interesting from Owl City to Emilie Autumn, who apparently throws muffins at her audience.

Yet, we have seen some nice local bands that were a thrill, from Jazz to Blues to Swing to Pop. We have bought their CDs to honor their performance and help them out. But, the CDs also provide some memories taking us back to Montreal, New Orleans, Killarney, San Francisco, Blowing Rock or even home in Charlotte or Winston-Salem when we lived there. There is a Cajun restaurant in my home city that has live music every day. A neat memory of ours is my oldest son being asked to sing along with an Irish family in a pub near Watertown, Ireland as he was the lone American who knew the words to a song.

Music heard at home or in your car is a wonderful experience, but hearing live music makes it memorable. My wife won’t listen to Elvis Costello at home, but she enjoyed his concert, e.g. Yet, let me close with a tribute and memory of our friend Eddie, who had the stroke. Eddie plays in several groups, but the last time we heard him play was at his oldest daughter’s wedding a few months ago. It was also memorable as my wife played social director and got everyone up to dance, including Eddie’s mother. God be with you Eddie. You make us feel better about our lives with your music.

So, let me hear from all of you. What are some of your memorable experiences? Have you seen some of same folks? Do you have friends that play?

A Birth Control Message – Courtesy of the Boss

With due respect and credit for inspiration to one of my favorite bloggers, Jenni at www.newsforthetimes.wordpress.com, who publishes a Tune Tuesday weekly post on the personal or societal impact of a favorite song or singer, I want to use one of Bruce Springsteen’s songs to embellish a point I have been making the past few months. I think I have cited the Boss on a couple of occasions, but I want to lift some lyrics from one of my favorite songs of his “The River” which is pertinent to my point of readily available birth control and education. This song is about a man remembering nostalgically how he used to go “down to the river” with his girlfriend and how life was much simpler before she got pregnant with his child.

The lyrics I want to quote are as follows:

“Then, I got Mary pregnant and man, that was all she wrote.

And, for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat.

We went down to the courthouse and the judge put it all to rest.

No wedding day smiles, no walk down the aisle.

No flowers, no wedding dress.”

In my post “If Churches Really Want to Make a Difference” a few weeks ago, I suggest that the church should be more involved with legitimate sex education with their young teenagers, including the use of contraception. Kids don’t know enough about this subject and it is the thing they talk most about. The peer pressure is intense. It is more than OK to discuss abstinence, but if you remember your teenage years, that is not going to happen very often. I won’t repeat all of the points made therein, but informed teens should be aware of the need for protected sex as well as ways to say no, if they feel pressured (if a girl) and ways to treat a girl who is saying no (if a boy).

The LA Times reported just this week that data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed the birthrate among American teens between  15 and 19, while decreased since 1991 is still at 34.3 births per 1,000 women. That rate is 5 times the teen birthrate in France and 2 1/2 times the teen birthrate in Canada. It is also higher than the rates in China and Russia. THe CDC reports that 80% of teen pregnancies are unintended meaning after unprotected sex or under protected sex. We have a higher incidence of sexual assault among teens as well.

Using Springsteen’s song, Mary did not need to end up pregnant. With birth control access and better sex education, Mary and the boy could have been more adroit at handling the issue before the heat of the moment caused a fate accompli. The rest of the song talks about how Mary and the boy go through the motions of life after being forced to do the right thing and marry. Their dreams were stifled. Yet, if she could say no, or have protected intercourse, then their lives need not be over.

My main point is so many issues could be better addressed through a better protected and more informed group of teenagers. There is high correlation to poverty and family size, especially if the family starts early. There is a high percentage of single parents in teen mothers, so in more cases than not, Mary’s beau would have left the building. With fewer unwanted pregnancies, then there would be fewer abortions. And, our teens would have a chance to grow up more before they start having babies. Finally, per Dr, Cora Breuner of Seattle Children’s Hospital, babies born to teens tend to fare more poorly than babies delivered to older age group parents.

I also believe the education part is just as vital. If the young girls and boys hear from respected sources about these very important life issues, they will be better positioned to handle them. More and more kids are not seeing churches in the same light as their parents. Some churches are actually driving people away with their evangelicalism. I firmly believe if you provide more venues to talk in an intelligent way with the teens about their problems, they will attend and listen. They don’t need to be preached to on the subject, but abstinence is an acceptable discussion point. I think it is important to note that you do not have to have sex if you are being pressured into doing so.

Per Dr. Breuner as reported by the LA Times, “We really can do better. By providing more education and improving access to contraception and more education about family planning, we can do better.” Note, Breuner helped write the new policy statement as a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Adolescence.

Springsteen, as usual, vividly depicts a real world problem. I think his song could be played during the sex education classes. These kids loved each other (or at least thought they did), gave into passion and after unprotected sex, their dreams were over. This is reality. Why should we not finds ways to educate and help before the “point of reckoning” rather than to let the kids figure it out after it is too late. In today’s time, it can be even worse when a STD enters the equation.

Thanks Bruce for your terrific song. “The River” can permit the dream to continue with protected sex. And, for parents and church leaders who want to throw the bible at me, let me quote a truism that I said in my previous post. Teenagers are going to have sex. If you do not believe me, there is an evangelical university within a three-hour drive of where I live. These young church raised kids “go crazy” when they get away from mom and dad. I actually cleaned that up a little from the quote from someone who attended there. So, we should help them on their journey by giving them the tools and education they need.