A cornerstone track of the album The Rising and a staple of The Rising Tour, “Into the Fire” honors the heroism of first responders who risked their lives and, in many cases, died while trying to help others in the Twin Towers. But it’s more of a prayer, really, than a story.
Springsteen does focus on a single character who “disappeared into the dust,” and the loss of the person he or she left behind (“I need your kiss, but love and duty called you someplace higher”). But that person is not really defined beyond that, and his or her sacrifice. The idea is to draw inspiration from this character (representing, of course, all first responders who died on 9/11).
“May your strength give us strength/May your faith give us faith/May your hope give us hope/May your love give us love,” sings Springsteen, repeatedly, gaining force and majesty each time.
So, on the one hand, the song is big and universal. Yet for anyone who lived through that time, and heard “Into the Fire” the next year, it’s very much tied to a specific event, and always will be.
Background facts: Springsteen released “Into the Fire” on his 2002 album The Rising.
According to Brucebase, he performed it 125 times in 2002 and 2003 (i.e., on The Rising Tour), and just 17 times times between 2005 and 2016.
At at least one of The Rising Tour’s rehearsal shows at Convention Hall in Asbury Park, Clarence Clemons added a wailing bagpipe intro — the kind of thing that might be played at a firefighter’s funeral. I heard it at Convention Hall and thought it was very powerful. But the idea was quickly abandoned.
On each of the 70 days leading up to Bruce Springsteen’s 70th birthday (on Sept. 23, 2019), NJArts.net will do a post on one of The Boss’ best songs of the last 30 years. We’re starting with No. 70 and working our way up. For more on the project, click here.
We need your help!
CONTRIBUTE TO NJARTS.NET
Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of $20, or any other amount, to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.