Springsteen: Trump Let the Genie Out of the Bottle

Bruce at PSU

This Marc Maron  interview with Bruce Springsteen is making the rounds. (It dropped on January 2, 2017). Both of my daughters and a couple of friends sent it my way today.

We put together a small (rush) transcript of the part of the interview in which Springsteen talks about Donald Trump:

MM: Are you scared now?

BS:  Yeah, of course, how could you not be.

MM: Right.  Have you felt this fear before?

BS: No. I’ve felt disgust before, but never the kind of fear that you feel now. And it’s as simple as the fear of “is someone simply competent enough to do this particular job?” Forget about where they are ideologically.  Do they simply have the pure competence to be put in a position of such responsibility.

MM: So when you’ve done the amount of self-work you’ve done and you;ve grown up the way you’ve grown up, and you know people, it’s sort of like, “They’ve elected the most insecure, needy volatile dude to this job.”  I don’t think it embodies strength to a lot of people, but it does embody “F..k you.” It’s like, who are you voting for?  The F..k you guy.”


BS: That happened.

MM: That happened. So I started thinking about this weird thing about the themes of your music and the people that you empower and empathize for–people in your life [like] your younger sister who lived a working-class life and times are tough. That shift, and you suggest in the book a little bit, the strength that comes through faith or determination to deal with adversity–that’s the celebration of the American spirit.  But once adversity tips into hopelessness, however that looks (and you’ve written those characters too and they’ve acted sometimes badly) and the hopelessness has no place to go–this is where we’re at.

BS: You’re right.

MM: So where’e your empathy around that.  I know people who voted for him.  You live in New Jersey, you probably know a few.

BS: Of course

MM: And then you have that moment where you’re like “And who the f..k are you? Who are you?  I thought I knew you?

BS: Yeah.  I understand how he got elected. If you were affected deeply by de-industrialization and globalization and the technological advances and you have been left behind and someone comes along and tells you “I’m going to bring all the jobs back, don’t worry about, they’re all coming back.”  And you’re concerned about America changing–the browning of America? “I’m gonna build a wall.”  You’re worried about ISIS? “I’ve got a secret plan to defeat ISIS, don’t worry about that.”  You’re worried about terrorism in the United States? “I’m gonna register the Muslims and we’re gonna ban them.”  These are all very simplistic, but very powerful and simple ideas. I mean, they’re lies–they can’t occur…

MM: But if they do occur they can’t lead to a better place

BS: Yeah, but if you’ve struggled for the past thirty or forty years–and this has been the themes of all of my creative life for all those years–somebody comes along and offers you something else, particularly after you feel you’ve been failed by the two parties–it’s a compelling choice. It appeals to your worst angels. And under certain circumstances enough people went there. Not a majority of the people–but enough.

MM: And what’s your biggest fear of it, as we enter it?


BS:  I suppose it would be that a lot of the worst things and the worst aspects of what he appealed to comes to fruition. When you let that genie out of the bottle–bigotry, racism–when you let those things out of the bottle…

MM: Intolerance

BS: Yeah, intolerance….they don’t go back in the bottle that easily, if they go back in at all.  You know, whether it’s a rise in hate crimes [or] people thinking they have a license to speak and behave in ways that previously were considered un-American, and are un-American. That’s what he is appealing to, and so my fear is that those things find a place in ordinary civil society. demeans the discussion of the events of the day, and the country changes in a way that is unrecognizable and we become estranged…So those are all dangerous things, and he hasn’t even taken office yet.  So you gotta wait and see, but those are certainly the implications.  Then if you also look at the people he is picking for his cabinet it doesn’t speak very well for what is coming up.  You know, those are all things I am very frightened of and waiting to see play out and all you can do is say I am going to do my best to–America is America and I believe in those ideals and I am going to do my small part in maintaining them.

MM: Are you writing about it?

BS: No.  It takes a while to digest all those things. And I don’t know if I will.  You know, I don’t go “OK, I need a Trump album, that’s what got to come next.”

MM: No but I think if you look at your heroes and certainly your shift into the power of popular folk music and what folk music meant.

BS: I’ve got a lot of songs that are about that right now.  They’re sort of there already. And you know I work from the inside out.  I am inspired by something internally and I make a record based on what I can write about at a given moment. Sometimes it ends up being topical and sometimes it doesn’t. But we’ve got a good arsenal of material right now that we can go out and put in service.

Listen to the entire interview here.  He talks a bit more about Trump in the interview, including this line: “There are plenty of good solid people who voted for Donald Trump and others who have other agendas.”

2 thoughts on “Springsteen: Trump Let the Genie Out of the Bottle

  1. I’m with you (to a degree) on the intolerance point. Though there are certainly different levels of intolerance. I will check out the Commonweal piece.


  2. John, “intolerance”? Messiah College is more intolerant than Trump, right? He doesn’t exclude based on faith.

    Isn’t the problem Trump’s unpredictability? “‘The Snapchat Presidency of Donald Trump,’ aptly explains, point by distressing point, why Trump in all his recklessness, shallowness, attention-seeking and self-obsession is a uniquely unsettling, indeed unimaginable (except that it happened) person to function as our nation’s chief executive.” https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/wham


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