Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr; the music of the Civil Rights Movement; and Bruce Springsteen

Thirteen years ago, my Coven co-Priestess and I went to a training in non-violent intervention at Friends Center in Philadelphia on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, in honor of his life and work. (My experiences that day prompted me to start attending Meeting not long after, and I have been active in the RSoF ever since; but that's another blog post.)

So that training was in my mind during worship this morning...

During one Friend's message, "We Shall Overcome" started floating through my head. (Hers was a short message; the verses continued in my head.)

I found myself thinking of Bruce Springsteen's current work. Beloved Wife is a Springsteen fan, and I bought his "Live in Dublin" cd for her birthday last year after hearing a special about it on public radio. "Live in Dublin" takes the work of "We Shall Overcome: the Seeger Sessions" several steps further into certain kinds of traditional American music -- especially the music of the Civil Rights Movement. (Check out the playlist here.) I was so blown away by the performances I heard that even if Beloved Wife hadn't been a Springsteen fan, I'd've liked to have bought the album.

I know. You're thinking, "That white rocker from NJ is doing spirituals. Right. Ew." Trust me on this. If you just can't fathom it, pay attention to the rest of the musicians.

Part of what was coming to me in worship today was hearing people involved with "Live in Dublin" talk on the radio special about how important it is to bring this music to new generations. About how people who would never think to listen to it, who would never be exposed to it, are standing there at concerts next to people singing every word of every song -- sometimes, their own parents, and then going home and having conversations about it.

I'm grateful that Bruce Springsteen is bringing some of this music to folks who weren't there at the time or who didn't grow up with it. Not just the music, but what it's all about.

better sound, but not the cool video:


Alyss said...

Some of my "grandest" spiritual experiences have been at Bruce Springsteen concerts :) The Rising album continues to be deeply spiritual to me even close to 10 years after first hearing it. I love the seeger session stuff, and, well, everything. I think there is amazing value in someone like Bruce, or Bono, or anyone with a voice people listen to bringing their messages to us. I'm going to see if my dad has a copy of the Live in Dublin cd. Thanks!

orawnzva said...

Springsteen is a little like Dylan — he can't quite exactly sing, but whoa can he ever bard. And that music really is important, both as part of history and for the power it still has, because the work of change isn't done.

As far as I know, nobody complained about Pete Seeger "appropriating" the music of the civil rights movement, because he was so clearly part of the movement. Bruce Springsteen is in a sense Pete Seeger's successor (one of many) in that work, more visibly active than Pete now with a body and a musical style 30 years younger. His credentials as being within the movement rather than an appropriator are no less good, and if people haven't figured that out yet, they will soon.