It’s almost a week since President Obama won a second term so it’s about time I loaded up a relevant song to The Roxborogh Report to mark the occasion. I’ve gone with what became the campaign theme song, Bruce Springsteen’s We Take Care Of Our Own from his most recent album Wrecking Ball.
The song was an interesting choice for Obama to use because for not the first time in Springsteen’s career, he’s written what almost sounds like a jingoistic first-pumper which on closely inspection is anything but. Like with Born In The USA (which Reagan unsuccessfully tried to use as his 1984 re-election theme), the chorus line of We Take Care Of Our Own is sung with a good dollop of irony. Just read the lyrics immediately prior to the first chorus:
The road of good intentions has gone dry as a bone”
Referencing the appalling government response to Hurricane Katrina a few years ago, Springsteen in the second verse talks about “from the shotgun shack to the super dome,” before mentioning a cavalry who stayed at home and that there was nobody “hearing the bugle blowin’.”
But the final, extended verse seems to offer a slither of hope amidst the frustration. He sings of looking for the work that will set his hands and his soul free, of searching for the spirit that will “reign over me.” The fact he still believes in that spirit suggests all hope is not lost and “wherever this flag is flown, we take care of our own,” might be less ironic and more literal in that last chorus. Or maybe not and maybe it was a bad choice for a President trying to be optimistic.
Possibly, but in a non-cynical way I think the presence of Springsteen in the Obama campaign (sometimes a physical presence too) spoke volumes of the inclusiveness that is the reality of this President. Fox News want you to believe in the Divided States of America, but when a white rocker in his 60s whose fan base is overwhelmingly also white has the courage to back Obama, it speaks of a nation where unlikely bonds can still be formed. And Springsteen formed one of those with his best-mate Clarence Clemons 40 years ago – read his spectacular eulogy to him here.
For those lifelong fans who were surprised Springsteen publicly endorsed Obama, they’d clearly never read any of his lyrics – his compassion for the common man has always been there for all to see. A further irony to all of this is that it’s possible the Obama team didn’t really read the lyrics to We Take Care Of Our Own either. That is unless they understood that the song’s message of frustration and fear for a nation who had lost its way would appeal to people who could see a bigger picture than just the previous four years. If those final lyrics in the song do represent a shift away from irony to something more genuine, then it’s a message I hope comes true.