‘Worlds Apart’ – Springsteen 70 Project, No. 60

Worlds Apart Springsteen

The cover of Bruce Springsteen’s album, “The Rising.”

Bruce Springsteen has shown little interest in world music throughout his career, but made an exception on “Worlds Apart,” from his album, The Rising. To underscore the tale of two lovers, from different cultures, trying to make their relationship work in a world that seems to be tearing them apart, Springsteen uses both The E Street Band and Pakistani singer Asif Ali Khan and his qawwali group. Springsteen also mentions “Allah’s blessed rain” in one line.

“I was trying to look outside the United States and move the boundaries of the record in some fashion,” Springsteen told Uncut magazine.

Qawwali is a form of Islamic devotional music, as soulful and uplifting as gospel; “Worlds Apart” is ultimately, like much of The Rising, both wrenching and hopeful.

The setting of the song may be a war zone; that would explain the disturbing line, “lay my tongue upon your scars.” Also, the mentions of “the dead” (in “May the living let us in before the dead tear us apart”) and “blood” (in “We’ll let blood build a bridge over mountains”).

In any event, it’s a powerful song — a prayer, of sorts, asking that love will prevail over hate.

“We’ve got this moment now to live, then it’s all just dust and dark,” Springsteen sings. “Let love give what it gives.”

Background facts: “Worlds Apart” is from Bruce Springsteen’s 2002 album, The Rising. According to Brucebase, it was performed in concert more than 100 times in 2002 and 2003.

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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1 comment

Shaun Driscoll September 22, 2019 - 8:33 am

So glad you put this song on the list. I remember the grief reviewers and fans gave him for writing a song they seen as “too soon” to ask for understanding of Muslims, but totally misses the point of the MUSIC ans well as the form of the lyrics. The music, yes, has Qawwali singing helped bring into western popular culture by Nusrat Fati Ali Khan via Michael Brook and Peter Gabriel, but the chanting at the beginning and end is Native North American(!) and it’s in that seamless compatibility that he is saying “we are more alike than different”. The lyrics are a Sufi love poem with lines like “Let’s throw the truth away, we’ll find it in this kiss”; “May the living let us in before the dead tear us apart”; “Where the distant oceans sing, and rise to the plain in this dry and troubled country, your beauty remains”. These lyrics are pure poetry.


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