Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Falling and The Rising, Part 2

In my previous post, I discussed songs on Bruce Springsteen's The Rising that address grief and the desire for revenge in the aftermath of 9/11. These fictional stories help us to work through and process the emotions that such a real catastrophic event provoke.

Another thing that fictional stories and music provide is inspiration and hope. Throughout the album Springsteen balances hopelessness and hopefulness through the juxtaposition of language and imagery: life vs death, darkness/night/evening vs light/day/morning, fire, blood, and tears vs faith, love, and strength. The most pervasive contrast on the album, though, is that of falling vs rising. Ultimately this album, produced in the aftermath of a crisis, is an album about how hope and faith can sustain us all through the darkness. For instance, the song "Waitin' On a Sunny Day" promises that even though "it's rainin' but there ain't a cloud in the sky," we can "chase the clouds away."

The song "Into the Fire" employs the imagery of falling and rising to tell the story of a fireman who gives his life trying to save those in the twin towers, told from the perspective of a loved one he left behind. It opens by telling us that "The sky was falling and streaked with blood." This imagery of falling and devastation is countered by the rising of this fireman into the very building that will fall.

You gave your love to me
and lay your young body down
Up the stairs, into the fire
Up the stairs, into the fire

You can't miss the double meaning in the words ofthe narrator of the song when she says, "I need you near, but love and duty called you someplace higher." This is a song about how the sacrifice of such individuals, about how, as Jesus says, no greater love exists than to lay down one's life for others, can inspire us all to live a more noble life. The chorus of this song takes the form of a prayer on behalf of the fallen hero.

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love bring us love

In several songs on the album, this hope takes on an eschatological character, such as "Further On (Up the Road)." This song appears to be sung from the perspective of one who died in the attacks as he tells us that he's got on his "dead man's suit" and his "lucky graveyard boots." But the message of this song links back to that of "Waitin' on a Sunny Day", as he sings "One sunny mornin' we'll rise I know, and I'll meet you further on up the road."

I had the opportunity a few years ago to see Bruce Springsteen in concert as he was touring for The Rising. During the middle of the concert, he launched into a series of five songs, both old and new, that I took to be an intentional comment on 9/11. The middle three songs are fromThe Rising album, but the first and last song are much older Springsteen songs. Taken together, however, these five songs summarize well the entire message of The Rising album. The titles of the songs, taken in order, say it all:

"Darkness on the Edge of Town"
"You're Missing"
"Empty Sky"
"Waitin' On a Sunny Day"
"Promised Land"

They present a journey from suffering and tragedy through the emotional responses of grief and revenge to the hope for a better future. It is the movement from falling to rising.


At 4:04 PM, Blogger Ron Cox said...

I have that five song set list set up on my iTunes and will give you a report back on my reaction (of course, it ain't live, but it will have to do).


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