Why So Many Fans Turned Against Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen opptrer på Ullevaal stadion 29. juni 2016.

Our “Why So Many Fans Turned Against Bruce Springsteen'” article takes a look at how the popularity of one of the most famous rock stars of all time dramatically changed in the 2000s. Bruce Springsteen was one of the most loved rock stars of all time in the 20th century. He had a fan base that was so devoted to him. Nonetheless, it seemed Bruce lost a portion of that fan base in the 2000s. We have never seen the popularity of a rock star so dramatically change as it did with Bruce Springsteen’s fans. Here’s what happened….

In the early 1970s, Bruce Springsteen had become a cult artist after the release of his first two albums Greetings from Asbury Park New Jersey and The Wild Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, both of which were released in 1973. However, in 1975 Bruce Springsteen released the album Born to Run which turned him into one of the biggest rock stars in the world. He was the only rock star to have ever appeared on both the covers of Time and Newsweek magazines in the same week. His future manager John Landau was quoted as saying he had seen “the future of rock and roll and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”

In the 1970s, from the Born to Run album on, it was impossible to get a Bruce Springsteen concert ticket. Three years later after some brutal court battles with his former manager Mike Apple, Bruce Springsteen released his follow up album to Born to Run entitled Darkness On The Edge Of Town. That album was followed by the legendary Darkness on the Edge of Town tour in which tickets to see Bruce Springsteen were mail ordered only. Bruce Springsteen was becoming more popular with each year passing by. In 1980 when he released the two record set album The River, he continued to perform in front of sold-out audiences leaving millions of people wishing they could just get a ticket.

Bruce Springsteen’s first six albums were filled with romantic stories of teenage angst and rebellion. They were written by an artist only in his twenties. An artist who had yet lived a long life. Bruce Springsteen’s River album started to show signs of maturity as far as dealing with the issues of marriage and divorce. Yet nothing that he had written was very political at all. When Bruce Springsteen released the album Nebraska audiences began to see signs of an artist digging into history and becoming more politically aware.

That political awareness and a memory of what it was like growing up in the 60s and seeing his friends and neighbors shipped off to Vietnam resulted in the Born in the U.S.A. album. However, the song “Born the U.S.A.” was misinterpreted as being a nationalistic theme. Even a U.S. president named Ronald Reagan misunderstood the song “Born in the U.S.A.” Of course, many of his dedicated and loyal fans who read the lyrics saw that it was a protest song. Nonetheless, in 1984, Bruce Springsteen had become bigger than Elvis Presley. At least that’s what USA Today News printed as a question on one of their front pages.

From a commercial standpoint, Bruce Springsteen was selling out stadiums around the world. He was the most popular musical artist of the time. Stadiums were filled with thousands and thousands of people chanting Born in the U.S.A.  while waving flags. Many were not really understanding what Bruce Springsteen was really singing about.

During the Born in U.S.A. tour, Bruce Springsteen set up charitable foundations outside his concert halls. He promoted food banks in every city that he toured. He constantly gave money to charities and promoted help for the poor, the needy, and the Vietnam Veterans. Bruce Springsteen had emerged not just as a powerful force in the music entertainment business, but as a voice that could actually create change.

Bruce Springsteen had become so big that he eventually tried to get out of the spotlight, clearly seeing that his message was being misinterpreted by millions. With a marriage that was falling apart, he retreated for a couple of years and came back with an album about the pain of love, and the disappointments people deal with growing up, getting married raising children and watching it all fall apart. His popularity had waned just a bit, but he was still a massive star. It was still impossible to get tickets for any of the shows.

During the 90s, Bruce Springsteen continued to perform in various charitable shows.  However, it was in the 2000s when it all began to change for Bruce Springsteen. Frustrated with the George Bush Presidency of the early 2000s, and what Springsteen called an administration kidnapping certain American freedoms, Bruce Springsteen began to campaign for John Kerry who was running against President George Bush in the President’s bid for a second term.

The campaigning that Bruce Springsteen did for John Kerry did not sit well with Bruce Springsteen’s Republican fans. There are many different viewpoints on this. As a county that is clearly divided politically, both sides should be taken into consideration. Many people are very passionate when it comes to politics. It’s not easy to see one’s musical hero take sides against one’s own political beliefs.

Many fans felt that Bruce Springsteen should just stick to his music and stay out of politics. It’s an age-old question whether should artists get involved in politics or should they just entertain. However, what many failed to realize was that Bruce Springsteen grew up as a teenager in the 60s. Bruce Springsteen grew up idolizing artists like Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez and so many more singers and songwriters who stood up against what they believed were unfair government policies. Those songs made an everlasting impression on a young teenage Bruce Springsteen. When it was his turn to give voice to what he believed was a government out of control he stood up and did everything he could to create change.

As John Kerry failed to defeat George Bush so did Bruce Springsteen’s commitment to change. What it did do was lead to a huge backlash against Bruce Springsteen. A backlash that would become permanent among millions of fans who would never forget the images and words of Springsteen standing on stage next to John Kerry opposing a President (Bush)that they actually loved and opposing a way of life they were fine with. Over the years when Bruce Springsteen would stand on stage next to President Obama, more and more fans walked away upset in his endorsement of yet another Democrat.

Bruce Springsteen’s campaigning for John Kerry was not the only reason why many fans turned against the legendary artist. Earlier in the decade Bruce Springsteen had angered many law enforcement people and their families and friends with the song “American Skin (41 Shots).”  It was a song he composed in protest of the shooting of Amadou Diallo. The man had been shot 41 times by New York City Police officers after they thought he was reaching for a gun when instead he was just reaching for his wallet. When the song was released, police forces that were in charge of security at many stadiums often asked the Springsteen camp not to perform the song. When Springsteen refused, all the police officers turn their backs on him during the song’s performance. Many in law enforcement never forgave Springsteen for what they felt was an unfair song written about them when they argued they were just defending themselves.

Over the years, more and more fans got turned off from Bruce Springsteen’s dabbling in politics and social issues. However, none of that seemed to bother Bruce Springsteen and cause him to change directions. When the man was on top of the world in 1984 and could have made millions and millions of more money following the Born In The U.S.A  album with a similar record he did the complete opposite preferring to follow his heart and artistic intentions instead of the dollar sign. When he witnessed what he believed was injustice in society he spoke out against it in both song and actions.

If you are a person who does not believe that an artist should write about politics or injustice then you should probably never listen to another Bob Dylan album again or at least half of the music of the 1960s. And of course, it’s your right to not want to hear an artist dabble in social and political issues. We all make our own choices in whom we listen to and what we believe in. That’s called freedom, and it belongs to everyone no matter what political party you may follow or believe in.

Why So Many Fans Turned Against Bruce Springsteen published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021

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