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 Scott Creney

White America Reacts to the Death of Clarence Clemons Pretty Much Exactly the Way You’d Expect It To

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“Playing off of Clemons, the grandson of a Baptist preacher, Springsteen could always turn one of his concerts into a spiritual revival from the Church of Rock ‘n’ Roll”

Oh yeah? My grandfather was an Irish drunk. It doesn’t mean I’m going to be able to help you write Ulysses. And Tim? If Clarence was the one with the preacher roots, how come Bruce didn’t let Clarence turn the concerts into a spiritual revival? Just asking.

“It was a nod to the roots of the music, as well as the 6-foot-4 sideman. And for someone from a homogenous background, it was transformative.”

Dude, your “homogenous background” had twice as many black people in it as the entire fucking arena you were standing in. But somehow the arena experience was transformative? Why? Because it showed you for the first time that people with different color skin could stand on a stage together? In (I’m being generous, here) 1975?!?

“Clemons made his splash on the cover of the greatest American rock album of the last century”


Born To Run


“He is the man Springsteen is leaning on, in more ways than one, and smiling back at. The sentiment — hey, these guys really like each other — came through in concert after concert.”

We get it. Alright? They were friends. Bruce and Clarence were friends. They liked each other. Hell, they loved each other. Why isn’t that enough? Why do you (and others, Tim isn’t the only one peddling this racial harmony shit) turn it into something else? You do realize that by casting Clarence Clemons as the Jim to Bruce’s Huckleberry Finn, you insult the very friendship you’re supposed to be praising, right?

You do realize that by holding up the Bruce/Clarence dynamic as some sort of model, as some sort of goddamn INSTRUCTION MANUAL for harmonious race relations in ol’ messy America, you are essentially saying that white people should be in charge, should be the — excuse me, here — THE BOSS, and black people should be their sidekick, supporting them every step of the way? That the white man gets to be in charge? And the black guy’s just there to lend a little soul and authenticity?

Let me ask you a question, Tim? In your little racial utopia, when does the black guy get to write the songs? When does the black guy get to take the center stage? And more importantly, when do you and your fucking friends, oh I don’t know, GO TO THE FUCKING SHOW WHERE THE BLACK GUY IS PLAYING? Because, believe it or not, some black people get to write their own songs, and sing them. They even get to have their names on their own fucking records. And check this shit out. Some of them even have white people in their band! And women playing guitars! Here’s another artist for you to idealize. This song came out the same year as Born In The U.S.A. and it’s five times better.

If that’s a little late for you, here’s one from when you were in high school.

And you do realize that by holding up Clarence and Bruce as your personal role models of racial harmony, you are saying that black people belong in the background? That a good black person is one who knows his place (off to the side)? One who essentially puts his energy into making white people better? And, in your case, making white people feel better about themselves?

And you do understand that you’re insulting Bruce when you compliment his (ahem) willingness/ability/nobility in choosing to be friends with a black person? Not to mention insulting black people (isn’t it noteworthy that a white guy would be friends with one?), as well as white people (sure was great of old Clarence to hang out with one of us), not to mention Clarence himself?

The sad part is this. It seems like Bruce and Clarence didn’t give a shit what color the other person was. It had absolutely nothing to do with their friendship. They just genuinely liked each other, had a lot of things in common, and felt a certain chemistry together. Just like you and your friends, Tim. Their skin color had nothing to do it. But to you, and to other people in the media, that’s all you’re capable of seeing. In your effort to turn that friendship into something more, you only end up turning it into something less.

“Bruce Springsteen lost a friend of 40 years; the rest of us lost an ideal”

You may have lost your ideal, Egan (and you can drop that first person plural bullshit, buddy). But at least you still have the fucking fantasy.

And oh yeah, the Pulitzer that Timothy Egan won? It was for his work on a New York Times series called How Race Is Lived In America. You can’t make this stuff up.

R.I.P. Clarence. You deserve to be remembered as more than a symbol. You deserve to be remembered as a man.

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