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Anger after Springsteen plays antiwar song at Concert for Valor

By Brett Wilkins     Nov 13, 2014 in Music
Washington - Rock icon Bruce Springsteen angered many American patriots after he played a popular 1960s antiwar song at a Washington, DC concert honoring US military veterans.
Some of the biggest names in music, including Rihanna, Metallica, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, the Black Keys, Eminem and Springsteen performed at Tuesday Night's Concert For Valor, a free, three-hour Veterans Day concert on the National Mall in the nation's capital. The concert raises awareness of veteran issues and support groups, raises funds for veterans charities and raises the spirits of the men and women who served.
There was controversy over rapper Eminem's frequent dropping of the 'F-bomb.' But even more hackles were raised by Springsteen's song choice.
The Boss, along with Zac Brown and Dave Grohl, played Creedence Clearwater Revival's 1969 hit "Fortunate Son," a counterculture antiwar anthem which criticizes martial fetishism and self-described patriots who enthusiastically support the use of military force but shirk military service.
An excerpt from the lyrics, written by John Fogerty:
"Some folks are born made to wave the flag, they’re red, white and blue/And when the band plays 'Hail to the Chief'/They point the cannon at you."
Of particular offense to many observers was the lyric, "I ain't no military son," which was written to illustrate how high-ranking officers sometimes secured draft deferments for their sons during the Vietnam War, in which more than 58,000 US troops, mostly draftees, and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians, were killed.
The Weekly Standard, one of the nation's most influential conservative publications, called Springsteen "tone deaf."
"It was a particularly terrible choice given that 'Fortunate Son' is... an anti-draft song, and this concert was largely organized to honor those who volunteered to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq," noted the Weekly Standard's Ethan Epstein.
"On a musical level, 'Fortunate Song' is not a bad song—that's one hell of a riff," Epstein continued. "But the Concert for Valor, a Veterans Day event sponsored by HBO and Starbucks, in front of the Capitol Building, was not the place for it."
The Washington Post reported on Twitter reaction — both positive and negative — to Springsteen's song choice.
"Why are they playing an anti-patriotic song 'Fortunate Son' at the Concert for Valor? And why are they cheering," tweeted Colette Moran.
"If you think 'Fortunate Son' was inappropriate for tonight's concert, you've clearly never paid attention to the lyrics," retorted Karen Hensley.
The hosts of the popular Fox News morning show Fox and Friends mostly interpreted Springsteen's performance as an insult to veterans. Co-host Anna Kooiman called it "almost a slap in the face."
But co-host Clayton Morris said he was "torn."
“I’m sort of torn about it because the song really is about the elites... about those politicians who he saw their sons and daughters were not going to go off in fight in a war,” Morris said. “And that the rest of the country was going to have to fight to save the rest of us, and help the rest of us.”
According to Fogerty, "Fortunate Son" was written “more to the unfairness of class than war itself."
Fogerty, a military veteran himself, defended the message in "Fortunate Son."
“Years ago, an ultra-conservative administration tried to paint anyone who questioned its policies as 'un-American,'" Fogerty, a 1993 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, wrote. “That same administration shamefully ignored and mistreated the soldiers returning from Vietnam."
“As a man who was drafted and served his country during those times, I have ultimate respect for the men and women who protect us today and demand that they receive the respect that they deserve," Fogerty added.
The mistreatment of returning Vietnam War veterans is a central theme of Springsteen's iconic 1984 hit "Born in the USA," which he also performed at Tuesday's concert, with much less controversy.
That song fooled no less a figure than President Ronald Reagan, who briefly used it as his campaign theme during his successful 1984 reelection bid.
But according to Springsteen, "'Born in the USA' is about a working class man [in the midst of a] spiritual crisis, in which a man is left lost…It's like he has nothing left to tie him to society anymore. He's isolated from the government, isolated from his family, to the point where nothing makes sense."
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