This year has now seen three great controversies at the intersection of patriotism and popular music. Chris Daughtry of “American Idol” fame caught hell back in June when he declined to sing “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” during a Fox News appearance on the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Last month, Aaron Lewis, the lead singer of Staind,bungled the lyrics to “The Star-Stangled Banner” prior to game five of the World Series.
It’s still unclear if Bruce Springsteen, one of the musicians at the center of the latest controversy, will be similarly apologetic.
Pretty much everyone has had something to say about Springsteen’s performance Tuesday at the “Concert for Valor,” an HBO musical event for veterans held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Performing with Zac Brown and Dave Grohl, Springsteen sang “Fortunate Son,” Creedence Clearwater Revival’s classic Vietnam War-era anthem that examines issues of class and jingoism in America. John Fogerty, the CCR frontman, said that his own experience as a drafted serviceman served as an inspiration for the song.
“I was the same age as the soldiers serving in Vietnam and from the same lower-middle class as them,” Fogerty once said.
But to some conservative ears, the song hit the wrong note at Tuesday’s concert.
“The song, not to put too fine a point on it, is an anti-war screed, taking shots at ‘the red white and blue,'” wrote Ethan Epstein at The Weekly Standard.
The performance was made even worse, Epstein contended, because “Fortunate Son” is “an anti-draft song, and this concert was largely organized to honor those who volunteered to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
The Boss has been in the Fox News crosshairs all day, too. On Fox Business Network, Stuart Varney questioned why Springsteen, “an outspoken leftist,” would play politics with the troops.
“So much for HBO’s ‘Concert for Valor,'” Clayton Morris said at the outset of this morning’s “Fox & Friends.”
On Fox’s “Outnumbered,” co-host Andrea Tantaros professed to be a fan of both Springsteen and Grohl, but wondered why they didn’t just go with a different song.
“It’s amazing to me that nobody — think of all the people that are involved in a concert like this — nobody had the brains to stop and say, ‘You guys might want to pick a different song,'” Tantaros said.
The hubbub surrounding Springsteen hasn’t been entirely one-sided. And while Tantaros and company thought “Fortunate Son” was a self-evidently bad song choice, others thought it was perfectly appropriate for the setting.
“This reaction seems like… not really an accurate read of this song! Not really at all. Real patriotism entails exactly this: publicly challenging the status quo in a country you believe to be capable of better things,” wrote Jessica Goldstein at ThinkProgress, noting that Fogerty performed the song just last week on the White House lawn.
Minnesota Public Radio’s Bob Collins argued that the Weekly Standard was “making an old mistake.”
“Confusing the war with the people who were drafted to fight it. It’s the mistake that led to the Vietnam veterans not being ‘welcomed home’ and while that’s been rectified over the last decade or so, putting the two back together again because Bruce Springsteen played the song is convenient, but illogical,” Collins wrote.
Springsteen also performed his hit “Born in the U.S.A.,” a song that, as the Washington Post’s Justin Moyer pointed out, actually includes many of the same themes as “Fortunate Son.”