This week at The Avid Listener, for our final feature essay of 2016, we bring you the 4th installment of Joanna Smolko’s series about Bruce Springsteen. For this essay, Joanna explores Springsteen’s performance history of the Stephen Foster song “Hard Times Come Again No More” and what the song has symbolized in Springsteen’s career. Here’s a teaser:
“As Bruce Springsteen’s career unfolded, he became increasingly overt about his political framework and his belief that music can be a powerful means both for illuminating issues of social injustice and for bringing people together in community. Springsteen mined the rich lodes of traditional American music in his 2006 album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (2006). Here, he found a treasure trove: traditional songs that glimmered and shone as he gave them roots—rock inspired settings and elements that could also be forged and shaped into new works. Following this album, he continued to explore the ways that traditional songs could be melded together with rock and roll. Springsteen’s performance of Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More” was part of his 2009 Working on a Dream tour, and his subsequent reworking of the lyrics in new songs shows his process of adaptation. In particular, “Hard Times” can be read as a song of mourning in the aftermath of the “Great Recession” of 2007-2009 and a call to respond with community-based activism and cooperation.”
Read the entire essay here. If you are a Springsteen fan, you won’t want to miss the fabulous videos embedded in this essay, as well as in in Joanna’s three previous essays. (If you missed them, here are links to essay 1, essay 2, and essay 3.)
We’ll be back in the New Year with more feature essay. If you enjoy The Avid Listener, consider submitting an essay for publication consideration. We don’t exist without our authors, and we have lots of open slots on our spring calendar.
The Avid Listener: Listen. Write. Discuss. Repeat.
Last week, on the night before the national election, Bruce Springsteen performed at a final Hillary Clinton rally. During the performance, he said “The choice tomorrow couldn’t be any clearer. Hillary’s candidacy is based on intelligence, experience, preparation, and an actual vision of America where everyone counts.”
This week’s essay by Joanna Smolko is about Springsteen’s struggle with Bob Dylan’s legacy, how Springsteen builds on that legacy to support progressive agendas, and how his commitment to progressive movements hasn’t wavered. Posting this now is certainly bittersweet. But we at TAL are committed to social justice, broadly defined, and we continue to hope. So this week’s essay reminds us that progression is a long game, dependent on stamina, not sprinting. And we can count on at least some musicians to give voice to the cause.
Here’s an excerpt:
“Since the beginning of his career, Springsteen has been haunted by his label as “the next Dylan.” Though promoted by John Hammond at Columbia Records (as Dylan had been), and admiring Dylan greatly (as he recently articulated while reflecting on Dylan’s 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature), Springsteen consciously chose to distance himself from Dylan’s musical style and forge his own path as a songwriter, embracing instead a carefully orchestrated, hard-rocking sound. In a 1999 interview withMark Hagen, Springsteen recounted that in his early twenties he began to avoid writing lyrics that relied on loosely strung-together images, a stylistic feature that was emblematic of Dylan’s music. However, from the late 1970s on, Springsteen covered songs written by Dylan, perpetuating—purposefully or not—the link between his work and that of Dylan.”
You can read the entire essay here. There’s more to come.
The Avid Listener: Listen, Write. Discuss. Repeat.
Just added: a new coaching package for writing projects that focus on Social-Justice movements. Normally I offer 5 (60 minute) phone or Skype sessions for $300, or 10 (60 minute) sessions for $600. For a limited time only, I will offer these same packages for deeply discounted rates, in order to encourage more writing and scholarship in desperately-needed areas.
The discount: 5 (60 minute) phone or Skype sessions for $225. Packages must be booked by April 16 to receive discount, but sessions can extend for whatever time is necessary beyond that date.
I am especially interested in supporting projects in any of the following topic areas, broadly defined: pro-immigrant policies / amnesty movements; Black Lives Matter; resistance movements; LGBTQI movements / identities / politics; Native / Indigenous peoples; Latinx lives, history, and culture; Intersectional identities; Disability rights (oh, there’s so much here); and Feminisms and womyn’s history. I’m sure I’ve forgotten important topics. Don’t see your project defined here? Let’s talk. Help me broaden my definition.
About this service: Coaching is not editing. This services is intended to help you jump start a project. As a writing coach, I can help you break larger projects down into manageable tasks; set and reach short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals; begin projects and bring them to fruition; and think about where to publish and how to get there. Some clients might be interested in long-form writing–such as books or dissertations. Others might work on short-form writing–such as blogs or essays / articles. Coaching can help with both short-form and long-form projects. For most clients this service works best as a real-time discussion, either by phone or by Skype. If a different format is more accessible for you, please let me know.
Please note: because I have my own social justice project to finish, I have limited client slots available. I’ll make room for as many new clients as possible. LET’S WRITE. Let our pens be our swords.
Celebrate with us! Today we launch The Avid Listener‘s third year! We invite you to celebrate / contemplate Labor Day and our third year with a new essay by Joanna Smolko, the first of a four-part series about Bruce Springsteen. This essay, called “Bruce Springsteen, Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seeger: ‘This Land Is Your Land’,” examines a chain of music and social justice work that runs from Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger to Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen has long been a champion of workers’ rights; longtime Springsteen fans are no doubt familiar with his political songs. In this essay, Joanna traces the lineage of Springsteen’s performances of “This Land is Your Land.”
Here’s a teaser: “On January 18, 2009, Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen sang together at We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial, accompanied by Seeger’s grandson Tao Rodríquez-Seeger and a choir. Seeger invited the crowd to sing along, reflecting his lifelong commitment to group singing; even in staid places like Carnegie Hall, his concerts were less about performing than about community music making. The song they chose was Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” a song much-beloved by both musicians. As they prepared for the event, Springsteen asked Seeger on how he wanted to perform the song. Seeger replied, “Well, I know I want to sing all the verses, I want to sing all the ones that Woody wrote. Especially the two that get left out: about private property and the relief office.”
Joanna has found amazing videos to accompany this essay, including a very charming video of President Obama singing “This Land” to his daughters during his 2008 presidential campaign. Read the whole essay here, and don’t forget to share. We’ll be back in 2 weeks with the next essay in the series.
The Avid Listener: Listen. Write. Discuss. Repeat.