Sunday, February 1, 2009
From the Dust Bowl to the Super Bowl
Bruce Springsteen is going to play the halftime show during the Super Bowl today. That, and the recent punditry about the prospects of us heading into a Great Depression 2.0, reminded me of this article from the New York Times Magazine on Springsteen from a dozen years ago, The Pop Populist1. For those who may not remember, Bruce Springsteen wasn't always overtly political; the article describes what may have been his inflection point in moving in this direction, his participation in a Los Angeles rally against California's anti-preference initiative Prop. 209.
The month the New York Times Magazine article was published (January, 1997) Springsteen's Steinbeck-inspired solo album, The Ghost of Tom Joad was nominated for a Grammy for best folk album. In a triumph of incongruous timing, Springsteen had released an album of haunting songs with lyrics recalling the Dust Bowl era (e.g., freight train-riding hobos) on the eve of the dot-com bubble and economic boom of the late 1990s. Maybe he'll play something more upbeat tonight.
1If memory serves, that issue featured a cover photo of Sprinsteen in a leather jacket with the caption "A Steinbeck in Leather". Unfortunately, the article I linked to doesn't include that photo, and a brief image search via Google lead to some unfortunate results (mostly likely due to the word "leather"). Hence, the image above (via Amazon.com) from Springsteen's album The Ghost of Tom Joad.