I think so.
I have a friend, a frequenter of this blog, who is a big fan of Bruce Springsteen’s music. He isn’t, however, a big fan of Bruce’s particular brand of politics. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, except that he, Bruce, has become quite vocal about expressing his various points-of-view. So along with stories of Mary cross the Jersey shore, a Springsteen concert-goer must also be up for some progressive lecturing.
I can understand how Bruce came to this point. After millions of Americans misinterpreted the lyrics to Born in the U.S.A. and reacted as if it was a flag-waving anthem, he probably felt that in order to articulate his message more clearly, he would have to spell it out between songs so that it doesn’t get lost amidst a wailing saxophone solo.
But somewhere along the way to superstardom, Bruce has forgotten why people line up to see him. His fans don’t buy his albums and attend his concerts because they feel that his music will lead to a shift in the political landscape that will in turn evoke positive changes to our society. No, they do so because they feel that his music rocks and they like to be rocked or in some other way emotionally moved by the sounds emanating from the stage.
It’s good that musicians aren’t apathetic to the issues of the day and they have just as much right to let their views be known as anyone else. But they must remember that the stage isn’t a soapbox and that they didn’t earn their place on that stage because of their astute political musings.
I’m sure none of us would appreciate it if, during a routine physical, the doctor changed the topic of conversation from our health to her views on the environment. Even if we agree with those views, we’re paying her to find out if our 245 mg/dL cholesterol level means that we’ll have to cut down on buttered bacon nachos, not to learn the effect the Kyoto agreement will have on third world economies.
Yet more and more entertainers feel that, for the right to pay $100 for their concert ticket, we are obliged to listen to them offer up political slogans while the guitarist takes a moment to strap on the double-neck Stratocaster.
Pity the meat-eschewing metalhead who just once would like to hear Wango Tango live without being emasculated by Uncle Ted’s carnivorous rants. And, at the other end of the tract, I’m sure that many a rancher have been left weeping at a Smith’s concert by Morrissey’s none-too-subtle suggestion that meat is murder.
Musicians have always pandered to their audiences, usually by offering up a crowd pleasing, profanity-accented tribute to their hometown. While “Bush sucks!” is a fairly widespread sentiment, it’s not universal. So why would someone want to offend or irritate one of their fans over an issue that isn’t even relevant to the occasion at hand?
Granted there are exceptions. If you go to an Earth Day concert or see Steve Earle while he’s supporting one of his protest albums, then you should expect to get a heavy dose of ideological dialogue. Even then, to most in attendence it’s still about the music, not rocking the vote.
Whatever Bruce aspires to be, to his audience he’s the guy who sings some of their favorite songs. That’s a pretty good gig. He shouldn’t jeopardize it by playing political pundit while he’s on the audience’s dime.