The first time I saw Bruce Springsteen in concert, as a 15-year-old back in 1974, I might've called it "a religious experience." In the 16 times I've seen him since, I've often thought he resembles an evangelist on stagewhether he's extolling the virtues of rock or urging the crowd to donate to a local food bank. This guy grew up in a Catholic home and seems to understand the concepts of sin, the Cross, confession, and redemption. These themes have all shown up in his music over the years.
Springsteen's last three studio albumsThe Rising (2002), Devils & Dust (2005), and We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (2006)are especially rife with spiritual imagery. And, by default, so is this summer's release, Live in Dublin, which includes many cuts from the Seeger CD.
The Seeger Sessions, all songs previously recorded by folk legend Pete Seeger, includes "How Can I Keep from Singing?", "O Mary Don't You Weep," "Jacob's Ladder," and "Eyes on the Prize," an old Holiness hymn that declares, "I got my hand on the gospel plow / Won't take nothing for my journey now / Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on."
Devils & Dust, meanwhile, is chock full of songs about hope, love, and redemption, as well as tales of sin, brokenness, and confession. The album's spiritual highlight is "Jesus Was an Only Son," which poignantly captures the bond between Mother and Child:
As he walked up Calvary Hill / His mother walking beside him / In the path where his blood spilled / Jesus was an only son / In the hills of Nazareth / As he lay reading the Psalms of David / At his mother's feet
Well, Jesus kissed his mother's hands / Whispered, "Mother, still your tears" / For remember the soul of the universe / Willed a world and it appeared.
Springsteen told The New York Times that although he's "not a churchgoer," his music is "filled with Catholic imagery a powerful world of potent imagery that became alive and vital and vibrant. As I got older, I got less defensive about it. I thought, I've inherited this particular landscape, and I can build it into something of my own."
Mark Moring, CT online editor of music and film.
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Live in Dublin is available from Amazon.com and other retailers.
Other Christianity Today articles on music include:
Think About God | Pioneer Brian Doerksen on what's wrong with worship music. (July 16, 2007)
Sinéad O'Connor's Theology and 'Theology' | Why you shouldn't be surprised that her new album is mostly passages from the Old Testament. (July 9, 2007)
A Questioning Faith | Derek Webb calls us to conversation, not conversion. (June 11, 2007)
Surfing for Spirituality | Switchfoot's Oh! Gravity keeps door open for questions. (March 27, 2007)
Lennon's 'Last Temptation' | The symbol of the sixties is desecrated, and a generation falls headlong into its midlife crisis. (January 3, 2007)
John Lennon's Born-Again Phase | "Can He love me?" the former Beatle asked Oral Roberts. "I want out of hell." An excerpt from The Gospel According to the Beatles by Steve Turner. (January 3, 2007)
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