After concentrating on social injustice and racism on his last SiriusXM satellite radio show, “From My Home to Yours,” June 3, Bruce Springsteen focused on the coronavirus crisis and the toll it has taken on the sixth installment of the show, June 17.
He read names and biographical snapshots from a New York Times report on 1,000 of the more than 100,000 Americans who have died, and played an excerpt from a 2014 President Obama speech about preventing pandemics. He also encouraged people to vote and implored our current president to “put on a fucking mask.”
It was a riveting and deeply moving 70-minute show. It was also, Springsteen said, a replacement for another show that he had prepared, but that he put on hold since he felt the need to do this one so urgently.
You can read virtually all of what he said, and see videos for the songs he played, here (in some cases, he may have played a different version of the song than what is embedded in this post):
“Welcome, welcome, welcome, my fellow travelers. This is Bruce Springsteen, coming ‘From My Home to Yours’ with ‘Music for Troubled Times, Vol. 6,’ titled ‘Down to the River to Pray.’ May you lay your personal burdens down for a moment and join us, in the next hour, for some music that I hope will lighten those burdens as well as administer, ever so slightly, to your good soul.
“Now I had another show prepared for broadcast this week, on this strange and eventful summer, but with 100,000-plus Americans dying over the last few months, and the empty, shamed response from our leaders, I’ve been simply pissed off. Those lives deserve better than just being inconvenient statistics for our president’s re-election efforts. It’s a national disgrace. So instead of celebrating the joys of summer today, we will be contemplating on our current circumstances with the coronavirus, and the cost that it has drawn from our nation. We will be calculating what we’ve lost, sending prayers for the deceased and the families they have left behind. So if you are ready for a rock ‘n’ roll requiem, stay tuned.
“I’m going to start out by sending one to the man sitting behind the Resolute desk. With all respect, sir, show some consideration and care for your countrymen and your country. Put on a fucking mask.”
“Disease of Conceit,” Bob Dylan
“If your ‘delusions of grandeur … give you the idea you’re too good to die, they’ll bury you, from your head to your feet, from the disease of conceit.’ That’s Bob Dylan.
“Well, it is the responsibility of those who lead us to inhabit the nexus where our national political and spiritual lives meet. The United States of America is ultimately a nation of souls. In times of historic calamity and tragedy, it is necessary for our leaders to administer, not only to our social needs, but to the union of souls that is our common citizenry. To tend to our wounds, both physical and psychic, and speak to the strengths and fears of our national family. This is a beautiful prayer by Neil Young, called ‘When God Made Me.’ ”
“When God Made Me,” Neil Young
“Huguette Dorsey, 94 years old, Somerville, N.J. He coached several championship-winning junior high girls basketball teams.
“Luke Workoff, just 33, from Huntington, N.Y. His passion was for his family and his friends.
“Torrin Jamal Howard, 26, from Waterbury, Conn. A gentle giant, an athlete and a musician.
“Kyra Swartz, 33, from New York. She loved to volunteer for pet rescue organizations.
“José Torres, 73, New York. A restaurateur favored by the city’s salsa music’s stars.
“These are just a few of the souls who have passed away due to the coronavirus.
“Now one of the most heartrending aspects of these deaths is that the virus has stolen from us our rituals: our funerals, our wakes, our house meetings with family after the burial, our ability to stand by our loved ones, to touch them, to kiss them as they pass, to look into their eyes, and to let them physically know how we love them. This is the cruelty of this disease, to say our last goodbyes to our loved ones by phone, and then to return home alone, to an empty house. It is a heartbreaking and lonely death for those afflicted, and for those left behind, to pick up the pieces.
“Now when my father died, my close friends and my brother-in-law, we stood in the graveyard, in the midst of our large family, and we took shovels, and we buried my father ourselves. It meant a great, great, great deal to me, and is a memory I’ll cherish as long as I live. The importance of that ritual, and to stand with my loved ones on the burying ground.”
“Burying Ground,” The Sensational Nightingales
“Whoo! That was The Sensational Nightingales with ‘Burying Ground.’ ‘I wonder can you hear the church bells tolling, I wonder can you see the hearse wheels rolling, way over yonder in the new burying ground. One morning it rolled my father, way over yonder, in the new burying ground.’
“And that was the incredible Julius Cheeks, singing lead. What a voice! The greatest singing, in my opinion, is in gospel music. There is no more passion and raw, emotive singing in the world. Sam Cooke was good when he went pop and R&B, but never quite as raw and alive as he was on those Soul Stirrers records. If you haven’t heard them, please check them out. Now, Live at the Harlem Square Club, that comes awful close to makin’ a liar out of me. But it was gospel that brought out Sam’s inherent greatness.
“All right. Up next is, and I hope I’m pronouncing this right, ‘Woyaya.’ It is written by Annie Masembe, who is a Ugandan, and the lyrics are astonishingly beautiful:
“We are going, heaven knows where we are going, we know we are
“We will get there, heaven knows how we will get there, we know we will
“It will be hard, we know, and the road will be muddy and rough, but we’ll get there.
“Heaven knows how we will get there, but we know we will.”
This is The Brazz Brothers, Live in Cape Town.
“Woyaya,” The Brazz Brothers
(Note: I couldn’t find the Brazz Brothers version but here is a different version of the song.)
“John Herman Clomax, Jr., 62, from Newark, He was one of the few African-American bond traders on Wall Street.
“Allan Joseph Dickson Jr., 67, from New Jersey. He loved the Jersey Shore music scene.
“Mike Field, 59, Valley Stream, N.Y. A first responder during the 9/11 attacks.
“Theodore Gaffney, 92, from Washington, D.C. He was a photographer of the Freedom Riders during the Civil Rights Era.
“Alan A. Potanka, 68, from Berlin, Conn. He collected stamps and coins.
“Doris Mae Burkhart Kale, 98. And she excelled in the kitchen.
“Dante Dennis Flagello, 62, from Rome, Ga. His greatest accomplishment was his relationship with his wife.
“Black N Mild, 44, New Orleans. He was a New Orleans bounce D.J. and a radio personality.
“May they all rest in peace.”
“Dream Baby Dream,” Bruce Springsteen
“I dedicate that to the memory of Alan Vega, and to his great band Suicide.
“Real illness is frightening, and make no mistake about it, these are frightening times. The footage from inside some of the ERs that we’ve seen should be enough to convince you to stay safe, behave responsibly and heed the warning of your medical professionals. The souls intubated, struggling for each breath, are a testament to the deadliness of this virus, and to the bravery of our frontline doctors, nurses and health care professionals. Our health care professionals who willingly put themselves in harm’s way, risking their own lives for others, deserve some special dispensation in heaven and here on Earth. We owe them our eternal thanks.”
“Give Me the Cure,” Fugazi
Plays recording of President Obama saying this in a 2014 speech:
“There may and likely will come a time in which we have both an airborne disease that is deadly. And in order for us to deal with that effectively, we have to put in place an infrastructure — not just here at home, but globally — that allows us to see it quickly, isolate it quickly, respond to it quickly. … So that if and when a new strain of flu, like the Spanish flu, crops up five years from now or a decade from now, we’ve made the investment and we’re further along to be able to catch it. … I cannot think of a better example of an area where we should all agree than passing this emergency funding to fight Ebola and to set up some of the public health infrastructure that we need to deal with potential outbreaks in the future. How do you argue with that?”
“What’s Going On,” Marvin Gaye
“Changes,” 2Pac Shakur
“That was ‘Changes,’ by 2pac Shakur, and before that, the immortal ‘What’s Going On,’ by Marvin Gaye. Comin’ up is the stunning voice of Paul Robeson, an African-American concert artist and stage and film actor. He was an activist who was blacklisted during the McCarthy Era, supported the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War, was opposed to fascism and was active in the Civil Rights Movement. He is an essential American artist.”
“Deep River,” Paul Robeson
“Laneeka Barksdale, 47, ballroom dancing star.
“Terrence McNally, 81, Sarasota, Fla. Tony-winning playwright of gay life.
“Sterling Maddox Jr., 78, Arlington, Va. Known for his friendliness.
“Kious Kelly, 48, New York City. A nurse in the COVID fight.
“Angel Escamilla, 67, Naperville, Ill. She was an assistant pastor.
“Lorena Borjas, 59, New York City. A transgender immigrant activist.
“Robert Lee Amos, 66, Columbus, Ind., expert marksman and firearms instructor.
“John E. Broadly, 84, Scituate, Mass. He was always honored to march with the American Legion in many parades.
“Joseph Thomas II, 88, New York City. He represented theatrical, TV and movie personalities.
“Marco DiFranco, 50, Chicago, police officer who was never at a loss for words.
“Joseph Migliucci, 81, from White Plains, N.Y. A fourth-generation owner of Mario’s restaurant, a Bronx institution.
“Janissa Delacruz, from Haverstraw, N.Y. She was known for always having a smile on her face.
“And Sharyn Lynn Vogel, 74, from Aurora, Colo.. She was a photographer, a gourmet cook, a traveler and a sparkling hostess.
“God bless them all.”
“Who’ll Stop the Rain,” Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Lay Some Flowers on My Grave,” Blind Willie McTell
“That’s Blind Willie McTell, born in Thomson, Ga., somewhere around 1898. He first recorded for Victor Records in 1927, and he spent most of his life as a blind street performer down the South. He favored the 12-string guitar, like Leadbelly, because it was louder on the street, and I think that Bob Dylan was right when he said nobody sings the blues quite like that.”
“The Man Comes Around,” Johnny Cash
“That was, of course, the inimitable Johnny Cash, with his momentous ‘The Man Comes Around,’ filled with biblical references, one of his final songs. And what a way to go out! Incredible, incredible piece of music. And he is warning us that Judgement Day is coming.
“The election is only months away. Vote! God help us all. Vote before it’s too late.”
“Too Late,” The Consolers
“Lila A. Fenwick, 87, New York City. She was the first black woman to graduate Harvard Law School.
“Alan Merrill, 69, New York City. He was a songwriter who wrote ‘I Love Rock ’n’ Roll.’
“John Prine, 73, Nashville, Tenn. American songwriter.
“Clair Dunlap, 89, a pilot who was still teaching people to fly at 88 years old in Washington.
“Marylou Armer, 43, from Sonoma Valley, Calif. A veteran police detective.
“Roger Eckart, 78, from Indiana. A retired firefighter and old-school barber.
“Merle C. Dry, 55, an ordained minister in Tulsa, Okla.
“John-Sebastian Laird-Hammond, 59, from Washington, D.C. He was the member of a Franciscan monastery.
“Larry Rathgeb, 90, West Bloomfield Hills, Mich. He was the engineer behind the first 200-m.p.h. stock car.
“Myles Coker, 69, New York City. He was freed from life in prison.
“Doris Brown, 79, Merrillville, Ind. She died on the same day as her husband.
“Gwendolyn A. Carmichael, 72, Detroit. She was the definition of love, loyalty, and the ability to serve others.
“Billy Ross, 53, Milwaukee, staff member and mentor at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission.
“Claudia Obermiller, 73, Nebraska, deep-hearted country girl.
“Adam Schlesinger, 52, of great New Jersey band Fountains of Wayne.
“Norma Hoza, 101, from Wilmette, Ill. She was the mother to six sons.
“May they rest in peace.
“Well, that’s our show for you now. We send our prayers out to the deceased and their families, and to all of you. American citizens, unite. Your country needs you, you countrymen need your care and compassion. And this is our moment. Until we meet again, stay safe, stay strong, mask up, and go in peace.”
“Down to the River to Pray,” York College Concert Choir
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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