Clarence Clemons’ bold sax intro to “Livin’ in the Future” announces it as an upbeat party song, and indeed, for the rest of its four minutes, the song lopes along genially, with more bursts of Clemons’ roaring sax and Danny Federici’s bright, playful organ. It seems on its surface like a comforting pop song in the “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” vein.
As Springsteen sings on the Magic title track, through, “trust none of what you hear, and less of what you see.”
Despite its sunny sound, “Livin’ in the Future” is actually one of Springsteen’s darkest songs. Perhaps that’s the point: the sound is a smokescreen, like the cheeriness of a politician who tells you not to worry about anything even when he’s not acting in your best interest.
“Don’t worry, darlin’/No baby, don’t you fret/We’re livin’ in the future/And none of this has happened yet,” Springsteen sings in the mind-bending chorus. It’s a ridiculous bit of reasoning; it doesn’t make any sense, really. Perhaps it’s just meant as something someone says to distract you, like a magician’s misdirection.
As for what the future holds, Springsteen’s vision is pretty apocalyptic:
“The earth it gave away, the sea rose towards the sun … My ship Liberty sailed away on a bloody red horizon/The groundskeeper opened the gates and let the wild dogs run.”
Springsteen wrote this more than a decade ago. In a sense, we’re living, now, in the future of him then.
Can’t say he didn’t warn us.
Background facts: “Livin’ in the Future” is from Springsteen’s 2007 album Magic. According to Brucebase, he performed it 103 times in 2007 and 2008.
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.
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