September 09, 2007

Sunday Music: Songs of 9/11


If you want to know how irrelevant rock music has become, think of the fact that nearly no rock music of note came out of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Many good rock songs were written about the Vietnam war, but quick, what songs came out of September 11?

Bruce Springsteen: The Rising
Cant see nothin in front of me
Cant see nothin coming up behind
I make my way through this darkness
I cant feel nothing but this chain that binds me
Lost track of how far Ive gone
How far Ive gone, how high Ive climbed
On my backs a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile of line


A lot of people think that this is a good song about 9/11, but I do not. There's no direct or indirect mention of what caused the fireman to be in that position. There's no anger, no sorrow, no emotion other than a bouncy "la la la la la la la la la" chorus.

Sorry, this is not a meaningful song. Its typical up-tempo Springsteen stadium rock, of the same emotion as if he was singing about "Glory Days" , about bullshitting about the past in some Jersey bar. OK if you're into that sort of thing, but sorry, 9/11 was not a "la la la " day and this is not any great song.

Neil Young: Lets Roll

The one 9/11 rock song that had meaning for me was Neil Young's "Let's Roll" . I can't imbed it, but you can see the video here

Young grabs the issue of United 93 and the passenger uprising by the throat:

No one has the answer,
But one thing is true,
You've got to turn on evil,
When it's coming after you,
You've gota face it down,
And when it tries to hide,
You've gotta go in after it,
And never be denied,
Time is runnin' out,
Let's roll.

Let's roll for freedom,
Let's roll for love,
We're going after Satan,
On the wings of a dove,
Let's roll for justice,
Let's roll for truth,
Let's not let our children,
Grow up fearful in their youth.

I got chills after hearing these lines the first time.


Lets move to where the real emotional reaction came from. Lets go to the world of country music.

Toby Keith: Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue

Toby Keith's response to the 9/11 attacks: righteous anger

Now this nation that I love
Has fallen under attack
A mighty sucker punch came flyin in
From somewhere in the back
Soon as we could see clearly
Through our big black eye
Man, we lit up your world
Like the 4th of july

Hey Uncle Sam
Put your name at the top of his list
And the Statue of Liberty
Started shakin her fist
And the eagle will fly
Man, its gonna be hell
When you hear mother freedom
Start ringin her bell
And it feels like the whole wide world is raining down on you
Brought to you courtesy of the red white and blue

Justice will be served
And the battle will rage
This big dog will fight
When you rattle his cage
And you'll be sorry that you messed with
The U.S. of A.
cause well put a boot in your ass
Its the Aamerican way!


A few too many flags for my liking here, but this is a righteous and proper response. None of Bruce's la la la's here. Toby Keith is pissed. And why shouldn't he be? Bruce got all filled with artistic rage when he sang 41 Shots, about a botched police action in New York City, about a terrible incident when an innocent man got shot 41 times. Why couldn't he summon the same level of anger when 3000 of his fellow citizens were murdered? La la la.

Darryl Worley: Have You Forgotten?

This song hit me in the solar plexus when it came out in 2003. Yes, many people even then had forgotten, and more have forgotten now. I remember seeing this video for the first time: the image of the World Trade Center near the end is just devastating. This is a great song.


Have you forgotten how it felt that day?
To see your homeland under fire
And her people blown away
Have you forgotten when those towers fell?
We had neighbors still inside going thru a living hell
And you say we shouldn't worry 'bout bin Laden
Have you forgotten?

They took all the footage off my T.V.
Said it's too disturbing for you and me
It'll just breed anger that's what the experts say
If it was up to me I'd show it everyday
Some say this country's just out looking for a fight
Well, after 9/11 man I'd have to say that's right

Have you forgotten how it felt that day?
To see your homeland under fire
And her people blown away
Have you forgotten when those towers fell?
We had neighbors still inside going thru a living hell
And we vowed to get the one’s behind bin Laden
Have you forgotten?


Alan Jackson: Where Were You? (When the World Stopped Turning)

I think that Alan Jackson's "Where Were You"? is the best song about the events of September 11. It sounds as fresh today as it was the first time I heard it. It's neither pro-war nor is it anti-war. And no Christian is going to have a problem with these simple, true, lyrics.

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day
Out in the yard with your wife and children
Working on some stage in LA
Did you stand there in shock at the site of
That black smoke rising against that blue sky
Did you shout out in anger
In fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry

Did you weep for the children
Who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don't know
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below

Did you burst out in pride
For the red white and blue
The heroes who died just doing what they do
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself to what really matters

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day
Teaching a class full of innocent children
Driving down some cold interstate
Did you feel guilty cause you're a survivor
In a crowded room did you feel alone
Did you call up your mother and tell her you love her
Did you dust off that bible at home
Did you open your eyes and hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
Speak with some stranger on the street
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Go out and buy you a gun
Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watching
And turn on "I Love Lucy" reruns
Did you go to a church and hold hands with some stranger
Stand in line and give your own blood
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love

The greatest is love
The greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day

9 comments:

mahones said...

Interesting, I agree with you that The Rising's lyrics are somewhat vague, but I recall how meaningful his music was to the victims and their families (thoe little NY Times profiles mentioned him all the time).

Paul McCartney's "Freedom" was not one of his best efforts, but the spirit was in it.

The Phantom said...

McCartney

Forgot about that one. Yes, his heart was in the right place but that song wasn't the goods.

Right in Bay Ridge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Right in Bay Ridge said...

Two very powerful songs to come from 9/11 are both by Irish groups:

"Christmas in New York" by the Yonkers' based band Shilelagh Law off their "Together in the End" Album. http://www.halfthebottle.com/buy.htm

And "New York's Damn Bravest" by Brian DeVale off his "Raise Your Glass" albulm. http://www.lyricsandsongs.com/song/628471.html

Eagle said...

Phantom,

I think Springsteen's effort was the whole album, not just the one song. I agree that he could have exhibited more anger, but I was willing to cut him some slack because I think he was clearly genuinely affected by what happened and responded well.

He didn't feel the need to bash America and supported the military action in Afghanistan.

Have you listened to the whole album? I don't like every song, but there are some excellent songs. Into The Fire, Nothing Man and The Rising are all about firemen. Empty Sky is the most angry he is on the album. Maybe it fails, but he did try. You're Missing still gets me as does Countin on a Miracle, although I think the music's not quite right (something he may feel because he's reworked it a few times since).

I don't want to overly defend Springsteen, but I do think he made a full effort with the album.

Eagle said...

I should add that I think Alan Jackson's song is fantastic. I still remember where I was when I first heard it. It was a day or two after the Grammy's when he first played it. I was driving and nearly crashed because I was so engrossed. It was about 6 weeks after Sep 11, so everything was still raw.

Martin said...

I have written a song entitled: 9/11 Building 7... You can hear it here. www.911building7.co.uk

Many thanks

Martin Noakes

Anonymous said...

On September 11th, 2001, our lives had forever been changed. In an effort to do their part, many people headed to church to pray, countless volunteered to give blood, and the majority of us flew flags, all in the name of showing support and uniting our Country.
I took to the piano and wrote a song for those whom had fallen and the ones they left behind.

My brother Dave added to the honor by creating a presentation which I offer for you now, to view and reflect.
I hope you watch this tribute and decide to send it to everyone you know, and who knows, maybe it will go around the world and give that certain someone who is still grieving, the closure they so desperately want and need.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkOcUBezito

Long live the Red, White and Blue.
Daniel J

Anonymous said...

Found video that hit me in the heart. Although it's not referring directly to 9/11 or the war in Iraq, it's still relevant. And if you don't recognize the "dust to dust" reference - go ask your priest.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WB76cYS8Ehw