Oct 2, 2016

Bruce Springsteen: Gay Ally with a Sordid Past

Bruce Springsteen, "The Boss," went completely under my radar in the 1970s and 1980s.  I knew "Blinded by the Light" (1973), but only through the 1977 cover by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, something about a teenage boy who "pumps his way into a hat" and is  "wrapped up like a douche."

The actual word is "deuce," but I have no idea what a deuce is.  Something to do with card playing?

I knew "Born in the U.S.A." (1984), but I thought it was a jingoistic patriotic anthem, not an indictment of our treatment of Vietnam War veterans.  How could you get that from:

Born in the USA, I was born in the USA, I'm a cool rockin' Daddy in the USA.

And I had a vague image of dead-end towns, pick-up trucks, hard-drinking men who worked in factories and the women who gave their lives meaning, gross heterosexist country-western stuff, nothing I would want to listen to.

There are lots of homophobic slurs in his songs.

In "Lost in the Flood" (1973), a returning Vietnam veteran moans that the countryside's burning with wolfman fairies dressed in drag for homicide.  

Not a very positive depiction of the Gay Rights Movement.

In "Tokyo" (1973), as the sun rises, a macho garbage man gets ready for work:  He hurriedly sipped his beer, and poked fun of the queer, and threatened to kick his ass.

"Backstreets" (1975) two friends grow up on the mean streets.  One of their pastime is "ripping off the fags."

More recently, "Balboa Park" (1995) talks about hustling: Where the men in their Mercedes come nightly to employ the services of the border boys

No positive references to gay people, but "Streets of Philadelphia" (1993) which was used in the movie starring Tom Hanks as gay man dying of AIDS, can be about any gay person's struggle with a brutal, heartless, homophobic world .

Ain't no angel gonna greet me,  it's just you and I my friend
And my clothes don't fit me no more.  A thousand miles just to slip this skin

Nevertheless, Springsteen claims that he had gay friends from the very beginning, and at least since the 1990s, he has been a vocal ally of the gay community.  He cancelled a concert in North Carolina in protest of the homophobic and transphobic House Bill 2:

"Some things are more important than a rock show, and this fight against prejudice and bigotry is one of them."