Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Win, lose, or drawl
It's hard to pin down exactly when my Bruce Springsteen problem began. As a teenager I worshipped the guy, and still recall a blistering 1977 show at Manhattan's Palladium as one of the high points of my musical education. I stuck with him for a long time after that, savoring the prairie minimalism of Nebraska and his first real tussle with married life, Tunnel of Love. Yet sometime in the late Nineties, he began to bug me. There wasn't any specific moment of disenchantment. In 1997, however, Nicholas Davidoff profiled Springsteen for The New York Times Magazine, and there's a telling passage in there that has lingered in my mind ever since I first read it.You can read the rest here.
Davidoff is discussing his subject's manner of speech, and describes his accent this way: "There is a Jersey-Pennsylvania lilt to some of his inflections--he says 'hill-larrvus' for 'hilarious'--and, at times, a hint of an Alabama drawl may slip in. (His childhood neighbor was a transplanted Southern truck driver.)" Now, Davidoff is a smart man, about life in general and music in particular (his profile of Johnny Cash in In the Country of Country is one of the best I've ever read.) But in this case he was either too polite or too gullible. When a son of Freehold, New Jersey, starts talking like a drunken Jethro Bodine, it's not because the guy next door was from Alabama. It's called affectation, and much of the time, it's been a toxic additive for Springsteen's art.
Plus, I can't watch him perform. Too bad.