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Bruce Springsteen – Devils and Dust

November 5, 2010

Recently I’ve found myself loving the music of Bruce Springsteen.  I’m particularly drawn to his material from the 70s.  The officially released 1975 show from the Hammersmith Odeon in London is particularly great – fantastic songwriting and great rock music performed with a tangible sense of urgency.  Its raw, but that’s definitely not a bad thing.

But I’m enjoying his more recent output as well.  And one song that I’ve actually loved ever since it was released a couple years ago is Devils and Dust.  Here’s the video – you should watch it (or more importantly, at least listen to it) before continuing.

I love the words to the song – I have ever since I first heard them.  If I remember correctly, he tried to write from the perspective of a soldier in the Iraq War. Regardless, the words have a much broader application.

Well, I’ve got God on my side, and I’m just trying to survive.
What if what you do to survive kills the things you love?
Fear’s a powerful thing.  It’ll turn your heart black, you can trust.
Take your God-filled soul, fill it with devils and dust.

At its best, great art can cause us to re-examine ourselves – cause us to see ourselves in a different light.  And I think this song does that.  I would even go so far as to call it prophetic – not in the sense of prophecy as foretelling the future, but as words that call us back to God.*  This is what Springsteen does here – whether intentionally or not.  He points to the power of fear to eclipse and drive out what is good and godly within us (perhaps this is a part of why the Bible tells us that perfect love drives out fear).  And he asks whether the things we do, often with the best of intentions, might actually have the unintended effect of harming the very things we intend to protect.  I often wonder if violence is like this – does violence actually protect peace, or simply beget more violence?  They are questions worth considering – questions Springsteen encourages me to return each time I hear the song.

* It’s actually a bit strange that we have come to think of prophecy as the telling of the future.  Prophets certainly do so on occasion, but it is not their main function. Even a cursory examination of the OT prophets will quickly reveal the main function of prophecy: calling wayward people back to God.

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From → Culture

5 Comments
  1. Scott Hennen permalink

    Jake, I posted a comment on this blog not realizing it would be posted on my wall on FB. If you’d like to read it go there.

  2. Jake Christian permalink

    For the sake of discussion, here’s Scott’s FB comment:

    Jake, Good thoughts about Devils and Dust. I think you’re pretty close on to what Bruce was going for. In regards to the war in Iraq, he is dead set against it. However, he is a supporter of soldiers and was somehow able to put himself in their place. Keep up the good work.

  3. Jake Christian permalink

    I’ve seen Springsteen criticize the Iraq War. And honestly, I agree with him that we should never have begun the war. And I certainly think that’s behind some of the words to this song. I didn’t really go into into the post because I wanted to keep it mostly apolitical – though its certainly fair game to discuss its political implications here in the comments.

  4. Heidi Hennen permalink

    Jake, Scott got me listening to Bruce several years back. I absolutely love his music. I have been absolutely astounded by some of the insights I have gained in love and grace through the pictures he paints of people’s lives and the things they deal with. He really knows how to capture the human condition and give it grace. An amazing artist in my estimation.

  5. Jake Christian permalink

    Wow – posting about Springsteen got BOTH Hennen’s to post on my blog?? Who knew that’s what it would take! 🙂

    I’m just getting into Springsteen, and am impressed with his songwriting. A few songs have really stood out to me so far (like Devils and Dust). I appreciate that I feel like he writes about normal people, who have pretty normal fears and disappointments in life – and yes, gives them grace. Are there songs that you think really exemplify him doing so?

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