Two podcast episodes featuring discussions between Bruce Springsteen and former president Barack Obama were made available today on Spotify. They are embedded below, along with a YouTube trailer for the series.
There will be six more episodes in this podcast, which is titled “Renegades: Born in the USA.” They will be released weekly and I will embed them all here. (MARCH 22 UPDATE: Episodes 2 through 7 are embedded below as well, and transcripts for each episode are available here.)
“In our own ways,” Obama says at the start of the first, 53-minute episode, which is titled “Outsiders: An Unlikely Friendship,” “Bruce and I have been on parallel journeys, trying to understand this country that’s given us both so much, trying to chronicle the stories of its people, looking for a way to connect our own individual searches for meaning and truth and community with the larger story of America.
“And what we discovered during these conversations was that we still share a fundamental belief in the American ideal. Not as an airbrushed, cheap fiction or an act of nostalgia that ignores all the ways that we’ve fallen short of that ideal. But as a compass for the hard work that lies before each of us as citizens, to make this place, and the world, more equal, more just, and more free.”
In Episode 1, they talk about their relationship with each other and their history together, their similar psychological makeup, their family backgrounds, Rep. John Lewis (who had recently died at the time of the conversation), the racial unrest of the ’60s, and racism in general. Episode 2, which is titled “American Skin: Race in the United States” and lasts about 42 minutes, continues with the topic of racism, with sections devoted to activism, reparations, Springsteen’s song “41 Shots (American Skin),” and the late Clarence Clemons.
“The only thing we never kidded ourselves about was that race didn’t matter,” says Springsteen, about Clemons. “We lived together, we traveled throughout the United States, and we were probably as close as two people could be, yet at the same time, I always had to recognize there was a part of Clarence that I wasn’t ever really gonna exactly know. It was a relationship unlike any other that I’ve ever had in my life.”
They also talk about their favorite protest songs. Springsteen brings up Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” and The Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K.” and “God Save the Queen.” Obama mentions Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm,” Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” and Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” (“though people don’t think of it as a protest song,” Obama says).
In Episode 1, Springsteen plays guitar as Obama recites some of his 2015 speech in Selma, and in Episode 2, Obama sings a bit of “Maggie’s Farm” with Springsteen backing him on guitar. Springsteen also performs acoustic versions of “My Hometown” in Episode 1, and “41 Shots (American Skin)” in Episode 2.
The discussions took place last year, from July to December, at Springsteen’s home studio in Colts Neck.
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.