Come on up for "The Rising": Springsteen captures the events of 9/11
Twelve years ago today, September 11, a group of terrorists put their plans into motion to wage a pre-meditated assault on the United States and by noon, the country and the world was an entirely different place.
While their elaborate plan - years in the making - succeeded in destroying the iconic World Trade Center in New York, inflicting major damage to the structure of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and changing the fabric of thousands of families forever, the attack did not destroy the American spirit. Rather, a solidarity formed much like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had 60 years earlier. Even though this unanimity has faded back into the partisan politics of blue and red states, this event still stirs National pride in our country much like the Olympics, a positive event, provides.
I can still remember being at work that day in a suburb of St. Louis and hearing the horrific news on the car radio. I had friends in New York. I feared for their safety and how their families felt at this moment. Then, I wondered just how large of a scope the terrorists had planned. Would Chicago be hit next? Would a monument like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis be a target? Just like millions of other Americans I was rightfully scared.
Less than a year later, Bruce Springsteen released his twelfth studio album, The Rising, partly inspired by the events of September 11, 2001. Touching on very sensitive subject matter, Springsteen wrote a majority of the songs in the wake of the tragedy. In fact, he told Matt Lauer in an interview that he went to the shore in Jersey shortly after September 11 and a guy recognized the famous musician and shouted, "We. Need. You!" The quick exchange got the then 52-year-old songwriter thinking and inspiration set in as he began to write most of the 15 songs on the album. There is symbolism to the first responders, emotions of the people in the wake of the attacks, Springsteen's Catholic upbringing, and love and loss.
The Rising went on to become one of the best albums of Springsteen's career. In both large and small brush strokes, he captured the feelings of normal Americans about how the attack had affected their lives forever. The strong song cycle and huge marketing campaign pushed the record to début at #1 on the Billboard charts and made it his best-selling since 1987's Tunnel of Love. Music publication, Rolling Stone, gave it a 5-star review, only one of two given for albums released in 2002.
In 2003, the album won the Grammy award for Best Rock Album and uplifting title track of the album won Grammy awards for Best Rock Song and Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. However, Springsteen lost out on the Best Album of the Year to Norah Jones, but his successful achievement had been recognized.
No matter if you remember what happened on September 11, 2001 or not, I'd argue that you can't listen to a song like "The Rising" without feeling some strong, stirring emotions. That's the mark of a great songwriter. To channel an inspiration into a song that speaks to the listener on several different levels. In the intervening years, I can't think of the events of September 11, 2001 without the response from Bruce Springsteen. They are intrinsically linked in my mind.