I am one of five children whose obsession with Springsteen has spread to our 70-year-old parents; they have even attended shows with us [MUSIC, Aug. 5]. My father has labeled Springsteen a "true American poet for our generation"--this from a man who attended Amherst College and spent afternoons immersed in the poetry of Robert Frost. Listening to the words of the songs on Bruce's new album, The Rising, brings me comfort as I try to digest all that has happened this past year. His commanding us to "rise up" from the events of Sept. 11 is like a preacher instructing his congregation. I pray that the congregation heeds his message.
Knowing how much his audience wanted to see him with the E Street Band again, shrewd businessman Springsteen raised ticket prices from about $30 for his mid-'90s solo tour to $67.50 for the high-profile E Street reunion tour of 1999-2000. Now he has again raised ticket prices, this time to $75. There's irony in a "populist" performer squeezing his audience for larger and larger amounts of cash for the privilege of hearing him sing about how tough it is in a cruel world.
Seeing Springsteen on TIME's cover was like running into an old friend. Even if you have never met him, he makes you feel you know him. His music has a way of bringing you home or taking you for a ride, wherever you want to go. I drove eight hours to Cleveland, Ohio, to see him play, since I couldn't get tickets here. But I didn't mind the trip. It was just another journey that Bruce has taken me on.
It's hard to imagine any other musician confronting the subject of Sept. 11 as well as the Boss has. For decades he has written music from a uniquely American perspective that can somehow haunt our souls and lift us up at the same time. If we knew Bruce for his words alone, he would be considered one of America's finest poets. But set to music, those words have the power to make generations of Americans think, hope and live better lives. The Rising is Springsteen's effort to try through his art to make us respect, remember and somehow overcome a tragic American event.
How can this Springsteen album be marketed as a remedy for the American people? If people want to like bad music, that's one thing. But to try to pawn off a new album as something that will heal the personal wounds of a national tragedy is despicable. Springsteen is not just a has-been, he's a boring one.
My grown kids thought I was nuts, but I literally squealed with delight when I saw your cover. I then ran out to the store and bought The Rising. With the first heavy drumbeats and the sound of Bruce's gravelly voice, I felt like I was home again.
For better or for worse, people like Springsteen have been supplanted by a new generation of musicians. If you must waste your readers' time by kowtowing to pop celebrities, at least choose ones who are relevant.
Some years ago, I came across a letter from a reader to TIME that appeared after you ran your Oct. 27, 1975, cover story on Bruce Springsteen. As a fan, I have always got a chuckle at the thought of that letter. It read simply, "A year from now we'll be wondering what ever happened to Bruce Springsteen." I hope the writer of that letter is now fully up to speed and has seen your latest story!
Auckland, New Zealand
--If a picture is worth a thousand words, do those words say more about the image or the viewer? Take, for instance, the detail-oriented Californian who found one letter on our cover to be literally off-color: "As I looked at your tricolored 'USA' in the cover headline, I wondered when the U.S. changed its colors to red, white and periwinkle blue." A plainspoken Maryland man thought the Boss could use a change: "This bum needs to get a haircut, a shave and a decent suit!" But it was the man behind the camera who was the focus of attention for a San Diego woman. "Gregory Heisler's cover portrait of Bruce Springsteen is amazing. Heisler's use of color and light are original, pure genius."
It's the Economy Again
Thank you for your story "inside the Mind of the CEO President" [NATION, Aug. 5]. I read it as a humor piece. You said President Bush "loves it when the elite are upstaged by the streetwise" because he thinks it reflects his life story. Bush is about as streetwise as Malcolm Forbes Sr. was on his Harley. But when the article went on to credit Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Bush's Council of Economic Advisers with deep thinking about the economy, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Perhaps George W.'s message on corporate fraud would be less garbled if he could get that silver spoon out of his mouth.
What is Bush if not a member of the elite who made millions in business largely because of his name and connections, and who as President has promoted policies designed to further enrich the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us? It's sickening when Bush strikes that "plain folks" pose. He is plain folks neither by birth nor by virtue of demonstrating any sympathy for people in the middle- and lower-income brackets.