by Scott Creney
Clarence Clemons, best known as the saxophone player for Lady Gaga — er, Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band — died last week. Naturally, Timothy Egan, a Pulitzer-prize winning columnist for The New York Times, took the occasion to reflect on what Clemons’s life — excuse me, Clemons’s role in the E Street Band — said about race relations in the United States of America.
The article is called Bromance With The Big Man.
“There weren’t a lot of blacks in my high school graduation class — two, to be exact — which meant that race was somewhat of an abstraction, happening elsewhere, mostly on a screen or from the grooves of a record”
Because you never talked to those two black kids in your class? I bet they could have told you some things that would have made race a little less abstract.
“And then I saw Clarence Clemons with Bruce Springsteen. Mind you, this was a stage, only a bit more of projected reality than television”
And certainly less real than those two kids you mentioned earlier. But go on, tell us what Clarence and Bruce taught you about race.
“… the Big Man and the Boss — opposites in look and style, Southern Baptist black and Jersey Shore white”
It was a six-hour drive from Baby Clarence’s house in the third largest city in Virginia to Baby Bruce’s shithole town in the middle of nowhere New Jersey. I think the opposites you’re looking for are BLACK and WHITE, and the rest of it is a smokescreen because you don’t want to be blatant about it. And this will probably come as a shock to you, but a black man is not the fucking OPPOSITE of a white man. The opposite of a white man would actually be something closer to a black amoeba. Or a purple entity with six eyes and 17 testicles. Bruce and Clarence were NOT opposites. They had different color skin. Caucasian is not the opposite of Negroid. Any more than Eskimo is the opposite of Norwegian.
“[They] projected a kind of joy that made it easy to believe that this mess of a country could get along”
Really? I could write articles for a WEEK about the troubled history of race relations in this country. Troubles that continue to this very day — higher rates of imprisonment, harsher sentences for the same crimes, more likely to get the death penalty, more likely to be hassled by the police in the first place, not to mention just the day-to-day struggle of dealing with all the bullshit, etc. etc.
And seeing ONE black musician and ONE white musician (Timothy didn’t notice the rest of the E Street Band apparently — either that or he just doesn’t want to complicate the story) get along together ON A FUCKING STAGE, gave you hope — no wait, made it EASY TO BELIEVE that we could get along? There better be a fucking epiphany in this article somewhere.
(And what kind of quaint 50s huckster babble is “this mess of a country” supposed to be anyway? Golly. It’s just a right ol’ mess. Beats me how on earth it could have gotten that way. Go sell it somewhere else, Gomer.)
“My friends and I came home humming saxophone riffs”
Oh god. Unless your friends hadn’t reached puberty yet, or you stopped off to hear some Pharoah Sanders on the way home from the Springsteen concert, this sounds kind of pathetic.
“Clemons was one tradition, of gospel, storytelling, and swagger”
Springsteen doesn’t swagger? Springsteen doesn’t tell stories? I’m being disingenuous. The ‘swagger’ Timothy’s referring to is obviously Clarence’s gigantic black cock.
“Springsteen was another, the garage band with blue-collar urgency and a poet’s lyrical touch”
Sigh … Anyone who follows American sports knows exactly what Timothy’s talking about. That “blue-collar” means Bruce is hard-working. Because white people work hard. I’ve lived in the USA for 39 years, and I have NEVER seen/heard a black person referred to as ‘blue-collar’.
And so the white guy gets to be the hard-working poet. And the black guy bring the (ahem) spiritual element. And the (ahem) swagger.
Just like in sports, where black players are successful because of their ‘innate athletic ability’, while white players are successful because of their ‘hard work’. There’s even a name for it. It’s called the ‘Quarterback Syndrome’, so named because in US football, quarterback requires the greatest degree of intelligence and leadership. Needless to say, a ridiculous high proportion of quarterbacks, at the professional, college, and high school levels, are white.
Timothy Egan continues on for a couple of paragraphs about segregation in rock, and (for some reason) baseball. He says well-meaning things about whites stealing rock and roll from blacks — no mention of hip-hop though. Or what Clarence might have thought about playing to arenas and stadiums filled with next-to-zero black people. (Springsteen’s audience is pretty much exclusively white.) Or, for that matter, how Timothy felt standing in a room full of white people congratulating himself on America’s ability to successfully and peacefully integrate itself, due solely to the fact that there was a black guy in the band playing saxophone.
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