Responding to protests, Bruce Springsteen shares thoughts, and songs of chaos and change, on SiriusXM

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Bruce Springsteen emphasized politics on his June 3 SiriusXM radio show

Responding to the unique moment in American history that we are all living through, Bruce Springsteen made the fifth installment of his SiriusXM satellite radio show, “From His Home to Yours,” an extended, remarkable meditation on what is going wrong and what people can do about it.

He pointedly started the June 3 show with his own protest song about police brutality, “American Skin (41 Shots),” and closed with Gram Parsons’ haunting “In My Hour of Darkness.” He played an inspirational speech from The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and anthems such as Paul Robeson’s “The House ” and Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power,” but also selections such as Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” which he called “one of the darkest songs in the American canon.”

“When the politics of paranoia, division, prejudice, intolerance, fear — all that’s antithetical to the American idea — hold court in the land, we are in deep trouble, my fellow citizens,” he said at one point.

This was the longest of his five DJ shows, clocking in at about an hour and 50 minutes. You can read virtually all of what he said, and see videos for the songs he played, below. (Note: In some cases, he may have played a different version of the song than what is here.)

“American Skin (41 Shots),” Bruce Springsteen

“Eight minutes. That song is almost eight minutes long. And that’s how long it took George Floyd to die, with a Minneapolis officer’s knee buried into his neck. That’s a long time. That’s how long he begged for help, and said he couldn’t breathe. The arresting officer’s response was nothing but silence and weight. Then he had no pulse, and still it went on. That goes out to Seattle, to New York, to Miami, to Atlanta, to Chicago, to Dallas, to Philadelphia, to Washington, to Los Angeles, to Asbury Park, to Minneapolis, and to the memory of George Floyd. May he rest in peace.

“As we speak, 40 million people are unemployed (and) 100,000-plus citizens have died from COVID-19, with only the most tepid and unfeeling response from our White House. As of today, our black citizens continue to be killed unnecessarily by our police, on the streets of America. And as of this broadcast, the country was on fire and in chaos.”

“Murder Incorporated,” Bruce Springsteen

“This Is America,” Childish Gambino

“We are 153 days to our next election. God help us. Vote. That’s what makes us great.”

“That’s What Makes Us Great,” Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers, featuring Bruce Springsteen

“Idiot’s Delight,” Joe Grushecky and Bruce Springsteen (Note: This is not the version played on the radio; that version is not available on YouTube.)

“That’s ‘That’s What Makes Us Great,’ by Joe Grushecky, joined by yours truly, and ‘Idiot’s Delight,’ a track from our vault, written by Joe and I, and debuted here for the first time.

“When the politics of paranoia, division, prejudice, intolerance, fear — all that’s antithetical to the American idea — hold court in the land, we are in deep trouble, my fellow citizens.”

“Political World,” Bob Dylan

“We are living in a political world. The next song is the eternal Bob Marley, with ‘Burnin’ and Lootin’.’ This is a live very from The Roxy: ‘We are burning all illusions tonight.’ ”

“Burnin’ and Lootin’,” Bob Marley & the Wailers

Springsteen then played a 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. speech. Here is the text of the speech:

Thank you very kindly, my very dear friends.

These churches are really loaded tonight. Never in the history of this nation have so many people been arrested for the cause of freedom and human dignity. You know, there are approximately 2,500 people in jail right now.

Now let me say this: the thing that we are challenged to do is to keep this movement moving. There is power in unity and there is power in numbers. As long as we keep moving like we are moving, the power structure of Birmingham will have to give in. And we are probably nearer to a solution to this problem than we are able to realize, and don’t worry about your children — they are going to be all right. Don’t hold them back if they want to go to jail, for they are doing a job for not only themselves, but for all of America and for all mankind.

Somewhere we read a little child shall lead them. Remember there was another little child just 12 years old and he got involved in a discussion back in Jerusalem as his parents moved down the dusty road leading them back to that little village of Nazareth, and when they got back and bothered him and touched him and wanted him to move on at that moment he said, “I must be about my Father’s business.”

These young people are about their Father’s business. And they are carving a tunnel of hope through the great mountain of despair. And they will bring to this nation a newness and a genuine quality and an idealism that it so desperately needs.

Now we are going to see that they are treated right. Don’t worry about that. The Justice Department is already in here, and they don’t have some small fish from the Justice Department, they have some of the big fish in here. We are reminding them at all times that these persons are political prisoners. There is a distinction between a political prisoner and somebody who is there for getting drunk, or somebody who’s there for engaging in a robbery, and we’re gonna see that they are treated right, and go on and not only fill up the jails around here, but just fill up the jails all over the state of Alabama if necessary.

Keep this movement going. Keep this movement rolling. In spite of the difficulties — and we’re gonna have a few more difficulties — keep climbing. Keep moving. If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.

“Who Will Survive in America,” Kanye West featuring Gil Scott-Heron

“Made in America,” Kanye West and Jay Z, featuring Frank Ocean

“Martin Luther King, in Birmingham, in 1963.

‘The Birmingham Movement was organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to bring attention to the integration efforts of African-Americans in Birmingham, Ala. Their confrontations between young black students and white civic authorities led to the municipal government changing the discrimination laws, and was part of the broader movement towards civil rights that changed the face of the nation.

“Now, almost 60 years later, we wake again, to an America with burned-out buildings, torched police cars, and shattered shop windows, a cost that we’re paying for another half of a century of unresolved fundamental issues of race. We have not cared for our house very well. There can be no standing peace without the justice owed to every American, regardless of their race, color or creed. The events of this week have once again proven that out. We need systemic changes in our law enforcement departments, and in the political will of our national citizenry, to once again move forward the kind of changes that will bring the ideals of the Civil Rights Movement, once again to light, and into this moment.”

“Go Down, Moses,” Paul Robeson

“Heaven’s Wall,” Bruce Springsteen

“Get Down, Moses,” Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros

“That was the magnificent baritone of Paul Robeson, followed by yours truly, with ‘Heaven’s Wall’ and Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros, with ‘Get Down, Moses,’ from their album Streetcore.

“It is 2020, and as I said earlier, there are 40 million Americans out of work, numbers we haven’t come close to seeing since the Great Depression. This next song was written in 1930 by E.Y. Harburg and Jay Gorney. At the time of its release, it was considered by Republicans to be anti-capitalist propaganda, and efforts were made to ban it from the radio. However, Bing Crosby, a Republican, recorded and released it just prior to the ascendancy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the presidency. It became the best-selling record of its time and was considered an anthem for the shattered dreams of an era.”

“Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?,” Thea Gilmore

“We remain haunted, generation after generation, by our original sin of slavery. It remains the great unresolved issue of American society. The weight of its baggage gets heavier with each passing generation. And as of this violent, chaotic week on the streets of America, there is no end in sight.”

“Blind Willie McTell,” Bob Dylan

“Strange Fruit,” Billie Holiday

“Work in Progress,” Nappy Roots

“That was Billie Holiday, and ‘Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.’ One of the darkest songs in the American canon.

“The video of the death of George Floyd is a 21st century visual lynching, and ‘Strange Fruit’ was written on the lynchings of black Americans that took place after the Reconstruction, and into the 20th century. It was recorded in 1939 by Ms. Holiday, and written by Abel Meeropol in 1937. It’s just an incredible work. It was followed by the Nappy Roots, ‘Work in Progress.’

“And again, here we have Paul Robeson, ‘The House I Live In.’ As in the past, we find ourselves currently in a contest to determine the real meaning of America. That definition ultimately resides in our individual and collective hearts.

‘The music for ‘The House I Live In’ was written by Earl Robinson, who was later blacklisted during the McCarthy Era for being a member of the Communist Party. The lyrics were written by Abel Meeropol under the pen name, Lewis Allan — the same Abel Meeropol who wrote ‘Strange Fruit.’ Now, Meeropol adopted the two sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg after they were executed for spying for the Soviet Union in 1953. Paul Robeson, with the very powerful ‘House I Live In.’ ”

“The House I Live In,” Paul Robeson

“People Have the Power,” Patti Smith

“That is the powerful poet and rocker, and my sweet friend, Patti Smith, with her anthem, ‘People Have the Power.’ ”

“Murder Most Foul,” Bob Dylan

“America, My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” The United States Army Field Band

“The timely and epic ‘Murder Most Foul,’ and ‘America, My Country ‘Tis of Thee,’ by the United States Army Field Band Soldiers’ Chorus. That’s our show for today, folks. We have a choice between chaos or truth, a spiritual, moral, democratic awakening or becoming a national fallen to history, with critical issues we refuse to or couldn’t address. Is our American system flexible, to make, without violence, the humane, fundamental changes necessary for a just society. The American story, our story, is in our hands, and may God bless us all. Stay safe, stay well, stay strong, until we meet again. Stay involved, and go in peace.”

“In My Hour of Darkness,” Gram Parsons

To read what Springsteen said and see YouTube videos of all the songs he played on his previous shows, click here for April 8, here for April 24, here for May 6 and here for May 20.

Though he is not officially on a schedule for these shows, he has been doing them once every other week since early April. The previous ones have lasted around 90 minutes each.

The shows are being broadcast on SiriusXM’s E Street Radio channel (channel 20), with repeats and on-demand availability following the initial broadcast.

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