I've long since given up on my rock and roll hero when it comes to politics. I'm not in the "shut up and play Bruce" mindset, but I definitely don't appreciate being preached to at a rock concert where I'm going to be entertained or released.
However, one constant and core to Bruce and his music is his protection of the music. I was in Atlantic City on The Rising tour when he decided to explain to the audience and people that heard the bootleg what Empty Sky meant especially the line that says "I want an eye for an eye". And with Bruce going out of his way to endorse candidates, it isn't surprising to me that they'd use his songs. I just wish they'd listen a little more closely to Bruce and his music....
The Rising isn't some song where it is open for interpretation as to what Bruce meant by writing it. He performed it on VHI Storytellers and I of course have a copy of it on DVD. To paraphrase my rock and roll hero as he goes through verse by verse of the song:
- It begins in the netherworld where all he has connected is what happened in the past or what will happen in the future (note it begins in the netherworld and after the subject DIES)
- Also the netherworld is a place you (as the listener) has never been to (obviously)
- I have a job to do and the tools I need to do it (the subject has the tools when he's thinking about what happened or what will happen to him)
- It's about transformation and something that's about to happen (the subject is about to die or enter the afterlife)
- Bells, sirens - fire alarms, bells of transformation, church bells, alarms (you kind of get the idea these aren't happy sounds unless you are celebrating that the subject is entering the afterlife)
- Wheels of fire - part of what you must do
- You are guided by people that have come before you
- Surrounded by sacred things, missing being physical with Mary (or whomever)
- Missing life, life, life on the edge of something else (death or transformation)
Now while there are images of transformation and Bruce does speak about transformation in the explanation on the song, I can't get past that this is a song about a person who was doing his duty (probably on 9/11 and most likely a fire fighter) and died; these are his last thoughts on his way into another world, dimension = the afterlife. There is just a) too many words to suggest this and b) too much explanation from the song writer to ignore these facts. Yes it is a catchy tune and I personally believe this is a song for the family members of the deceased to let them know that the subject is fine and ok with their transformation; they are also prepared to move on with whatever lies on the other side.
The Rising is an odd song for a political rally - John Edwards, Clinton, or Obama. It deals with death and the only thing the subject is rising to is transformation into the afterlife. After someone close to you dies, it takes on an even stronger linkage that the person is better where they are and that they are ok with the transformation into the afterlife.
Bruce has always been protective of his songs and even through this is being used by his Democratic Party, you'd think those folks would give him the courtesy and the respect he deserves to use better songs. You want happy, sing along songs - try Waitin' On A Sunny Day or even Mary's Place (there is a depressing side of that one). You want a rally song about the country, war hero returning home - Born in the USA or even No Surrender. Working class songs - plenty of them there - try Promised Land. You want something new that speaks about working class and the American Dream - go play American Land.
There are plenty of great songs in Bruce's catalog to play for the Democrats, but The Rising as catchy as it is, just isn't one that should be played at political rallies.