Q: I'm a black dude from Baltimore. The best I can do is hum the hook to "Born In The USA"--mostly because Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda used it for their intro music. But recently I've been studying the musical culture of white people. Some good stuff there.
I am intrigued by your love of Springsteen. You are known to be quite the hip-hop fan. I feel disadvantaged in your presence. How do we right this great historical wrong? Where in the sprawling catalogue might a thirty-something male crippled by a life of black privilege begin?
A: I'm happy you are taking up the study of the neglected musical legacy of white Americans. It's about time that African-Americans, who have profited so much from the appropriation of white music, focus on the great contributions to American culture made by this marginalized population. My own feeling is that while Chuck D was a hero to most, he never meant shit to me, he was a straight-up racist, that sucker was simple and plain, mother fuck him and Lil Wayne. But you know me, I'm just Jeff the Angry Caucasian, standing up for Leonard Chess.
On the matter of Mr. Springsteen, you need to begin at a few places simultaneously: You need to listen to "She's the One," "Jungleland," and "Backstreets" from Born to Run, just to understand how epic the guy is; listen to "Rosalita" from The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle in order to understand that he's tremendous, propulsive fun; and then listen to the entire Nebraska, not only because it's beautiful, but because it marks the decisive moment, for me at least, when Springsteen became the voice of the voiceless. You have to trust me on this--if you do this all on the same day, your life will change.
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